The Duct Tape Shoplifters: Coming Soon To A Mall Near You?

Watch out for organized, highly trained teams of shoplifters in your local mall. They aren’t small-time operators—they stole $23,000 worth of bras and panties from a West Virginia Victoria’s Secret. No, really.

The Victoria’s Secret and Aeropostale stores were hit between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday. Victoria’s Secret reports that about 400 bras and 350 pairs of panties were stolen, worth about $23,000. Aeropostale says more than $2,000 worth of T-shirts were stolen.

Police believe that their M.O. is to have one team member distract the sales staff while others help themselves to the merchandise, stuffing it in specially lined bags.

I sent the link to one of our contacts in retail management for an opinion. She says that this method is quite plausible. A similar group, if not the same one, has hit other malls across the country, including hers.

Victoria’s Secret gets hit a lot at [my mall.] Banana Republic and Ann Taylor both got hit bad last month, too. It was the same deal, with lined bags and decoys.

Lined bags are usually done with [aluminum foil and] duct tape. What you have to look for is a bag from a store that’s not in your mall, or one that is exceptionally square. A typical bag from a clothing store will crinkle and not be stiff and flat.

There’s also taking the contents of a whole table and bolting, which happens to Victoria’s Secret a lot. What they do is you take everything but a few sizes, skim the table, and that way it looks like it hasn’t been hit.

Now, we’re not providing this information as tips, but simply to allow you to be an informed citizen or retail employee. Be vigilant. Keep the panties safe.

Shoplifters loot Vienna mall of $25K worth of items [Charleston Gazette]

(Photo: coreyann)


Edit Your Comment

  1. einstoch says:

    Hopefully they’re modern day Robin Hoods. Stealing from lingerie stores and giving to the woefully under-naughtified sexy women of this world.

  2. Bluth_Cornballer says:

    These criminals are quite BRAzen.

  3. christoj879 says:

    I remember when I worked at Sears finding a large black bag with something thick and unmoving inside. Me and the other employee thought it was either a dead baby or a bomb, and used the reaching sticks used to grab high merchandise, opened it. It was a bag lined with duct tape. Funny thing is, the store only used cameras, no detectors.

  4. TacoDave says:

    I love the scene in Paul Blart where he fights the lady in Victoria’s Secret.

    Funny stuff, that.

  5. pmcpa4 says:

    Shouldn’t the tag here be “Bad Consumer”?

  6. Benny Gesserit says:

    I’m having a moment: Are they saying simple duct tape keeps the bloop-bloop from going off when the leave? Or did you mean bags lined with duct tape and aluminum foil or something?

    • Laura Northrup says:

      @Julius Seizure. (Mourning Mollie Sugden): Just asked and revised the post – it’s usually foil, held down with duct tape. It’s the tape that’s visible when you look in the bag.

    • Julius_Seizure says:

      @Julius Seizure. (Mourning Mollie Sugden): Another Julius Seizure! This must be the Bizarro World…

    • Mike8813 says:

      @Julius Seizure. (Mourning Mollie Sugden): I’m wondering the same thing. For those of us that aren’t master thiefs, what the hell is the duct tape for exactly?

      • donjumpsuit says:

        @Mike8813: Duct tape Is foil tape, just not the usual duct tape you are used too. Other water proof and heat proof ‘duct’ tape comes as a adhesive backed foil.

        • bwcbwc says:

          @donjumpsuit: Good point. There’s “duct tape” and then there’s the stuff they actually use to tape ducts, which actually is made out of metal. But you could just as easily use the familiar “duct” tape to stick a layer of aluminum foil (and whatever else) inside the bag.

      • ChunkyBarf says:

        The duct tape acts as a Faraday cage ([]) and blocks the incoming magnetic field in the SensorMaticâ„¢ controls. In effect, it makes a small force field around the bag and prevents the contents inside from being detected by the security measures.

    • Lolotehe says:

      @Julius Seizure. (Mourning Mollie Sugden): This works. The tricky part is getting off the exploding dye-packs; but that can also be done, it’s just not something you want to do in the store. Don’t ask me how I know this.

      • Dilbitz says:


        yup. Take a lighter to the end that doesn’t have the ink pack. And try not to burn the item. I found this out from working at the mall and our thingie that takes those off broke. Every item had to be done like that so we could sell them. Real fun.

      • Outrun1986 says:

        @Lolotehe: I heard somewhere that you put the article of clothing in the freezer and it freezes the dye so it doesn’t get on your clothes. Big shoplifting rings probably have access to the proper tools and devices to remove these though.

  7. Christopher Johnson says:

    maybe they are saying it’s ACTUAL Duct Tape.. like aluminum tape…

  8. Sbrools says:

    When I worked in retail at a popular clothing store in my mall, we were warned about these types of shoplifters. We were told there were two main types of shoplifters, the small-time lifters who just place 1 or 2 items in their bag, and the high-rollers who just shovel off entire tables and dash before anyone can stop them. The proper response was to call mall security.

    • burnedout says:

      @Sbrools: I worked at American Eagle in Chicago and we were hit by a similar group. We were required to keep one person stationed at the front of the store AT ALL TIMES and use those stupid headsets to radio to the back if a customer asked for help with something. Whomever was at the front was NEVER supposed to leave. But one day our stupid store manager who refused to wear the headsets because they messed up her hair was watching the front, and when someone asked for help mid-store she just walked right over. They cleaned off an entire swimwear table and a couple of wall shelves of jeans and t-shirts by the time she walked up front. Best part was she tried to play it off as if she was doing a floor move so she wouldn’t get busted – fortunately our District Manager was there and called her out. Too bad they didn’t fire her – she was an idiot.

  9. ash says:

    For at least 4 years now, I’ve heard of people clearing a significant amount of merchandise out of Victoria’s Secret. I guess it’s because the security is low but each bra costs $40 or so

  10. hills says:

    400 bras + 350 pairs of underwear = $23,000! I knew VS was overpriced, but seriously? That’s an average of $30 each item (unless I did my math wrong, which wouldn’t be the first time)…. technically, I think the article should say “retail value” $23,000 – because they are certainly not “worth” that much IMHO.

    Just has me wondering, how did I used to afford shopping at VS when I was in college? Ah, the priorities….

    • rhys1882 says:

      @hillsrovey: That’s an average of about $30 per item. Overpriced for sure, but not as absolutely ridiculous as the large number may suggest.

      • bwcbwc says:

        @hillsrovey: Plus you have to price your merchandise to make up for these huge “attrition” rates, which just makes the product more attractive to thieves….bit of a vicious circle there.

    • Aladdyn says:

      @hillsrovey: my wifes bras cost 60 from VS so… seems about right. Thats also probably the reason why the steal them. People would be happy to pay half price and their still making a lot of money

    • Eat A Peach says:

      @hillsrovey: Any really good, supporting and well fitting bra will be somewhere in the price range of high 20’s to mid 40’s. I actually own approx. 10-a dozen VS bras and I have yet to be dissapointed in any one of them. They are my favorite ones to wear (and I’m a sucker for matching undies so I very rarely leave VS spending less than $50 a trip). I actually gave up my old non-VS bras last year after discovering what it’s like to wear a correctly fitted and well designed one. Asking $12.00 or more for the matching undies to their more expensive bras (usually in the $58-$65 range) is really kind of over the top and that’s what causes me to wait until they go on sale or I get a text/email/mailer promo coupon to go shopping.

      • SteveBMD says:

        @Eat A Peach: I agree. I have 8 or 9 of the VS bras and they fit my figure quite well, providing just the right amount of lift and the proper cushioning in the areas where I need it the most. And the bra is flexible enough to handle virtually any activity. Like you, I have spent $30-40 each, and I have not been disappointed.

        Oh, and I’m a dude.

    • Emma777 says:

      @hillsrovey: Especially with their underwear, you barely ever pay the price on the tag. They are always doing 5/$25 specials when the tagged price is anywhere from $7-12. I don’t buy bras there, but I’m a sucker for the Pink underwear line – I love the stupid sayings – my favorite pair says “Invite Only” on the butt – ha ha ha ha!!!!

    • heltoupee says:

      @hillsrovey: No, the article should say “reported to insurance value”.

  11. Eldritch says:

    My bookstore for hit with similar similar, over 50 copies of one book were stolen one day. We still have no idea how it happened, but we assume the duct tape bag method.

    My sister works at V’s Secret and says they get hit all the time and can’t do anything about it, company policy. The mall cops are totally useless too. They’re more than happy to chill in my store reading our magazines, but when we actually call them for something? No where to be found. :/ We’ve noticed a real upswing in shoplifting since the recession started.

  12. rhys1882 says:

    I had a girlfriend at GAP in San Francisco when a couple of their stores got hit by grab & dash crews. Car would pull up with blocked out license plates. About three to four girls would run in and just scoop up entire tables, jump back in the car. Not much your average retail clerk can do about that.

    When I was a teenager I worked out Tower video. I was alone at the register up front with a big line of customers when some dude dashed out the front with a BIG duffle bag that set off the alarm. I didn’t even report it, probably should have.

    • zibby says:

      @rhys1882: Ya think?

      • zibby says:

        @zibby: Whoops. Forgot the rest of my post. I worked in a grocery store when my then- state of residence changed the law to allow them to sell liquor. The geniuses in charge put the liquor department right up front, about 20 feet from the exit. That worked out as well as you might imagine – people were stealing basically at will, I think more liquor walked out of the place than was sold. Anyhow, within a couple of months all the liquor was in its own Fort Knox-like section in the back with its own register, guard, etc. But I guess you can’t run a whole store like that.

  13. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    Fun fact: Having a lined bag is legal

    Fun fact: Having a lined bag and getting caught stealing makes that bag a burglary tool, earning you the additional charge of “Possession of Burglary Tools”

    • Michael Belisle says:

      @R3PUBLIC0N: Fun fact: nobody cares.

      ( I’m not quite sure what your point is. We could play this game all day long: )
      ( Fun fact: Guns are legal. Possessing a gun is not usually a crime. )
      ( Fun fact: Using a gun in a burglary makes it an aggravated burglary. )

      • mxjohnson says:

        @Michael Belisle: Actually, I think R3PUBLIC0N makes an important point. Many people don’t understand the different types of theft, and how they’re defined.

        For example, the Consumerist story is titled “Duct Tape Shoplifters” but it’s not shoplifting at all. It’s burglary.

        Shoplifting is generally a misdemeanor. Burglary is a felony. Possession of burglary tools is, as R3PUBLIC0N pointed out, yet another felony. And they can throw in a conspiracy charge too, most likely.

      • Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

        @Michael Belisle:
        Fun fact: Possessing a gun in Chicago is still illegal despite the Supreme Court ruling a year ago!
        Fun fact: Our idiot mayor is challenging the Supreme Court ruling & incredibly has found that both US District Court & Appellate Court judges ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling & so far have upheld the obviously unconstitutional Chicago law that hasn’t prevented a single shooting.
        Fun fact: The were six killed in shootings over the Fourth weekend. Lots more wounded!
        Conclusion: The law works [at least according to the mumbling idiot King Richie}

        • Areia says:

          @Greasy Thumb Guzik: Fun fact: Research has shown that gun availability increases crime levels.

          You’re right: lack of legal gun availability does not prevent gun crime, but the more guns available, the more gun crime.

  14. ipodrulz says:

    So someone stole 3000 t-shirt- from Aeropostale?

    Banana Republic? Ann Taylor? Poor people pretending to have money?

  15. meechybee says:

    That’s okay. The $23,000 worth of bras and panties wee really only worth about $100. Honestly, I’ve never seen a store mark up crap as much as Victoria’s Secret. Their underthings are garbage.

  16. Felix the Cat says:

    Mall Security will NOT get involved with thefts from stores. Liability issues here with false arrest suits etc. The most they will ever do is to ‘stand by’ while the store employee or security makes the arrest and pitch in if there is a fight. Besides most of these mall cops are not exactly ‘in shape’. If you want inside info on this sort of thing you might take a look at: you will find early in the blog info on camera systems and the sensor tags and how they work, further down you will find info on how Target deals with shoplifting.

    • Michael Belisle says:

      @Felix the Cat: Target “security guards” are not representative of all security guards. A quick google search found many instances of mall security getting involved with shoplifting.

    • burnedout says:

      @Felix the Cat: the security guards at our mall were required to be competent in at least one form of martial arts in order to get hired. They had a combat test as part of the hiring process. No Paul Blarts in our mall…of course it was a west suburb with a real gang problem, so they weren’t in a position to mess around…

  17. Felix the Cat says:

    OK, here is a sample of what is available at:

    From: Target AP Directives

    C. Five Steps for Apprehension

    Certified AP team members must observe all five steps prior to making a shoplifter apprehension.

    NOTE: If local law enforcement takes independent action and makes an apprehension before all five steps are met, the details must be documented in the CIRS report.

    1. Initiation of Observation – The subject must enter the store/area without possession of Target merchandise.

    2. Selection – The subject must be observed selecting Target merchandise from the display location.

    3. Concealment – The subject must be observed concealing the merchandise, or the AP team member must have NO reasonable doubt based on observations that the merchandise has been concealed by the subject.

    NOTE: If the merchandise is not actually concealed, it must be exposed as the subject exits or attempts to exit the store.

    4. Maintain Observation – The AP team member must maintain sufficient surveillance of the subject in order to know the location of the merchandise and ensure the subject does not discard the merchandise.

    NOTE: A Productive Merchandise Recovery (PMR) shall be attempted if surveillance is broken for any reason, or the AP team member can not maintain sufficient surveillance. (See PMR Directive)

    5. Failure to Pay for Merchandise/Exiting the Store -AP team member(s) must observe the subject attempt to exit the store without paying for the merchandise.

    NOTE: Some jurisdictions allow variances from the exiting requirement to allow apprehensions of concealed merchandise before an individual reaches the building’s exit. In these cases, the requirements must be documented and approved by the Director or Vice President of Assets Protection using the “Variance from Exiting Form” (found on the AP Zone).


    D. Restroom / Fitting Room

    Apprehensions AP team members are not allowed to conduct surveillance or make apprehensions in restroom and/or fitting rooms.

    1. AP team members are not allowed to follow subject’s into a restroom or fitting room to conduct surveillance.

    2. AP team members shall not ask another team member to enter a fitting room or restroom to conduct surveillance.


    B. Searches of Private Residence or Motor Vehicles

    1. AP team members will NOT participate in a search of a private residence or motor vehicle.


    1. Fleeing Shoplifter

    a. If a shoplifter attempts to flee after being confronted, do not give chase in any manner (running, driving, etc.).

    b. Store based AP team members shall not use any vehicle to follow or pursue a subject for any reason.

    c. AP team members shall not encourage, condone, suggest or ask another Target team member or anyone else to chase a fleeing shoplifter.

    2. AP shall refer for prosecution all individuals apprehended for retail theft when the value of the merchandise is $20.00 or greater and the case meets local prosecution requirements.

    NOTE: If a case meets/exceeds the $20.00 referral guideline, but is NOT referred, the reason for non-referral must be included in the CIRS narrative. (Example: Local jurisdiction limits require merchandise in excess of $75.00 in order for prosecution.)

    3. A team member witness, of the same gender of the suspected shoplifter , must be present in the room at all times during the detention.


    A. Photographing Shoplifters

    1. Adult shoplifters – AP shall photograph all adult shoplifters unless prohibited by local statutes or ordinances.

    2. Team Member Shoplifters – AP will not photograph any team member apprehended for shoplifting during working or non-working hours.

    3. Juvenile Shoplifters – AP will not photograph any juveniles apprehended for shoplifting, unless required by local statutes or ordinances.

    • seamer says:

      @Felix the Cat: In Australia, if you lose sight of the Accused at any point, you can’t do anything unless you see them do something else naughty, and they can’t be done for what you previously saw them take unless they have it on their person.

      <- Did Loss Prevention for a while before I moved to the USA.

    • MooseOfReason says:

      @Felix the Cat: So the stores aren’t allowed to protect their property?

  18. Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:

    Should I feel more outraged at the per-piece cost of what was stolen? As a man, I’m not sure of how much bras and panties should cost, so I don’t know if ~$30/per is a ripoff or not.

    • pollyannacowgirl says:

      @Yoko Broke Up The Beatles: I think it is. I can’t stand Victoria’s Secret stuff. It’s poorly made and gaudy colors and stiff and ugly and WAY overpriced.

      I go to Daffy’s and find beautifully made Italian and French lingerie for half the price.

    • Robobot says:

      @Yoko Broke Up The Beatles: $30 for a comfortable, long lasting, supportive bra is hardcore awesome value pricing, but $30 for a VS-quality bra is a little steep.

      VS has some well-made panties, I’ll admit that much, but I still wouldn’t pay more than $9 a pair or so for them.

    • bohemian says:

      @Yoko Broke Up The Beatles: Vicki’s Knicker’s is way overpriced for what it is.

    • halothane says:

      @Yoko Broke Up The Beatles: I used to like VS because they carried my weird size (34AA,) but they don’t anymore. $30 is worth it, IMO, to get a bra that actually fits, but now they seem to only carry mainstream sizes with all sorts of insane padding.

  19. diasdiem says:

    Is there nothing that duct tape can’t do?

  20. corkdork says:

    It’s pretty common in retail — professional teams will travel in vans, hit local malls for $20-$40k per visit, and Ebay off the loot as NWT (New With Tags) for 1/2 price. Victoria’s Secret is popular because the merchandise is high-value, easily portable in large quantities (a big bag can hold a LOT of $30 panties), and it’s a well-known brand.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      @corkdork: Yep. I worked at a mall record store. We were hit once by pros with a booster bag. Our mall wasn’t a favorite target like a few other area malls, but we’d get a few known pros hitting every now and then. They’d pop in a few times over a period of about a week, and then never be seen again.

      Most were easy to recognize based on the type of booster bag they had. Savvy ones had shopping bags of department stores. Less savvy ones had shopping bags of department stores not actually in the mall. One genius just carried around large birthday gift bags. If they didn’t care at all about being inconspicuous, they just had a plastic garbage bag lined with duct tape and tin foil.

      Really enterprising ones, though, had lined pockets sewn into their clothes. They’d have baggy pants, and a loose fitting plaid or checked shirt. The pattern helped break up the outline of merchandise hidden under their clothes. I wasn’t suspicious about those guys until two guys wearing similar outfits came in about two weeks apart and used the same line when I asked them if they needed any help. Their response was “No, man, whenever I come into a record store, I forget what I was going to buy, so I just have to wander around for a while.” Found out later that they were indeed part of the same small-time ring. Their MO was stealing box sets, then selling them back to us as used for cash.

  21. Sonicslasher says:

    “Aeropostale says more than $2,000 worth of T-shirts were stolen.”

    That’s only what, 2 shirts?

    • Chad O'Malley says:


      Aeropostale is actually pretty cheap (in both quality and appearance). Most of their tees retail for about $5 to $20 (and there is perpetually a 2 for $20 deal).

      And in regards to this story, back when I worked at Aeropostale I had a father come in pleading with me to let his daughter use our store’s bathroom. I found this odd since the mall’s bathroom was located three feet to the left of our store. It was also strange how he kept trying to stand directly in front of me. It was then I noticed his daughter was tossing a ton of clothes into a huge bag. She then walked back to her dad and told him she didn’t have to use the restroom anymore.

      Got to love the fact that a mall cop happened to be outside the store at the time ;)

  22. pollyannacowgirl says:

    My sister was quite the shoplifter. The last time she was arrested, she was leaving Anthropologie with two COATS and $700 worth of merchandise. She’s petite and adorable and usually got away with being caught by crying and looking cute and innocent.

    As part of her “deal”, she had to attend a sort of “Thives Anonymous” group therapy thing. Of course it’s supposed to be anonymous, but she used to tell the most unbelievable stories about what the other members of the group had stolen. She didn’t tell me their names, so I guess it was anonymous.

  23. rten says:

    I’m almost glad it happened, c’mon $30 panties. It’s like a crystal retailer claiming a $300 loss, despite the fact I saw $1200 of it broken by an employee, who without a wince of concern swept it all up into a dustpan as he kept talking with another co-worker.

    Panties $2 + $28 in purchased self esteem (advertising) to prove how good a shopper you are in picking esteemed brands.

  24. EdenBabararacucudada says:

    not worth, but: “Potentially sold for”. Why do people keep mis-using that term?

  25. Trencher93 says:

    Can I buy one of these bags to keep the alarm from going off on merchandise I’ve paid for? Tired of being treated as a criminal…

  26. ARPRINCE says:

    VS is the only store I would visit in the mall with my wife when she goes there. I always wonder why? ;)

  27. layton59 says:

    I read that a lot of these shoplifting gangs are composed of illegal immigrants. This country must look like a shoplifters heaven. Little chance of being caught. If you are caught, a legal system that is a joke. Prisons that meet their every need with no real punishment. Where is the justice? I guess the mall stores will just add their losses to their already inflated prices. Man, I wish I was a judge, I’d do some creative justice. Similar to what TV’s Judge Joe Brown used to do in Tennessee.

    • LastError says:

      @layton59: In my area, it’s not immigrants but “urban youths” who steal a car and use it to ram their way into boutique stores selling things like $300 pairs of jeans. Smash and grab, it is called. Somebody stalks the place during the day noting where the pricey items are. Later at night, they come back, crash their way in, and four or five people swarm the store and steal very specific stuff they wanted. It’s very targeted. They can be in and gone in 45 seconds, often before the alarm company has even called it in.

      The police have made some arrests and usually find a house full of stolen clothes, and usually guns, drugs, stolen TVs, store maps with displays marked, identity theft materials, and other related items. There is now a wholesale crime industry fueled in part by these stolen clothing items.

      It’s only a matter of time before someone dies. Some store owners have been hit over and over and now sleep in their stores with shotguns ready to go.

  28. ArgusRun says:

    Yeah this has been around a while. Far more troubling to me is the practice of a store employees letting their friends go “shopping” for free. I worked in a mall my family owned once and a fellow employee invited me to take what I wanted at piercing pagoda.

    She didn’t know my family situation. She was fired that day.

    You are being paid to do a job and part of that job is to stop shoplifters, not aid and abet them.

  29. econobiker says:

    So where are they fencing 400 bras and 350 panties? Is this stuff hitting ebay or craigslist or is it being sold on the rough side of town out of a van in a closed gas station parking lot along with 3 pairs of socks for $5?

    A while back there was a case in Florida where a retail/drug store shoplifting ring was aggregating the product (razor blades, infant formula, shampoo, etc) in a warehouse for sale either via ebay or wholesale in case lots to shady independent quickmarts/bodagas. This ring was very organized with street crews, consolidators, transporters, all the way up to the warehouse labor and internet posters.

  30. Tom_Servo says:

    I have a special bag lined with panties too, what a coincidence.

  31. ApothecaryMark says:

    This happens all the time in S. FL. It has happened about 5 times in the last 18 months in Naples, Bonita Springs, and Ft Myers, FL. They steal it and then ship it overseas to be sold on the black market. Old news…

  32. henrygates says:

    I can’t imagine having to work in retail as a career option. The majority of your workforce are lazy kids. You have to deal with shoplifters. Your employees shoplift more than the customers do, and you can’t trust a word any of them say, ever. I have a lot of respect for someone who can put up with that on a daily basis.

  33. Smashville says:

    For any guy who’s ever purchased his sig o anything at VS…that’s like…2 pairs of panties, right?


  34. corinthos says:

    This happened at the Evansville, IN victoria secret. I overheard employees talking about it in the food court like 6 months ago.

  35. citizensmith: I may be stupid but: says:

    Cool, so the stuff we’ve been making hats out of also works to keep retail brainwave stuff under control as well as the normal government mind control emitters.

  36. Damian Potenzone says:

    booster bags baby, always weary when last year’s bar graphic shows up in your store

  37. RB_Bhoy says:

    that’s how we did it :)