How do Booster Bags work?

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for educational purposes only. The authors do not condone shoplifting, and any information contained in this blog post should not be used to engage in illegal activities. In fact, we encourage retailers and their agents to keep abreast of such shoplifting techniques, as this helps to inform them of how their loss prevention strategies may be circumvented.

An example of the Booster BagPut simply, a booster bag (sometimes called a ‘magic bag’) can be used to foil a store’s EAS (electronic article surveillance) detection system by blocking the RF or AM signal which is contained in a security tag or label. Essentially, the bag acts as a shield which prevents the tag from being detected by the security gate as it is passed. The bag is made of tin or aluminium foil, and this can be layered inside a shopping bag, backpack, or even the lining of a pocket inside a piece of clothing.

Unlike opportunistic shoplifters, booster bags are used by professional thieves as an easier means of concealing multiple items in one visit. It also saves time for the would-be thief, as there is no need to remove security tags or labels inside the store. Most often, the shoplifter would use sleight-of-hand or a store blind spot to drop items into the bag. A more crude method involves wrapping ready-made layers of foil around an item at the time of lifting, and then sealing the foil with a fold.

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What items are needed to make a booster bag?

In our example we’ll describe how a double-layered booster bag is made. The two layers enable the bag to appear normal when viewed from either the inside or outside (i.e. unlike the picture shown above, it prevents any metal from being seen). In this experiment, you’ll need:

  • Two new (not old and creased) shopping bags
  • A roll of tin foil
  • Adhesive tape (double-sided works best)
  • A pair of scissors

How is the booster bag made? [Log in or reigster to get access to the video]

  1. Find a large, flat surface and lay out your tools.
  2. Fold the first edge of the roll about 5cm (2”) over, reflective side inwards.
  3. Roll-out some foil, reflective side up, and place one bag against the inside edge.
  4. The handle of the bag must not be covered by any foil (you’ll see why later). Also, the bottom part of the bag may be exposed for now, and this is OK.
  5. Unroll some more length, and lay it over the top side of the bag. The new crease should be as close as possible to the edge – do not make it wider than the bag’s width because your outer bag will need to fit over it.
  6. Grab the two corners of the bag that are closest to the roll of foil, then lift the bag upwards, and as more foil unravels, flip the bag underneath so that the newest layer is on top.
  7. Press down the newly made edge so that it creases closely with the edge underneath.
  8. Repeat this process so that it makes four complete layers (remembering that each flip of the bag covers only one side – i.e. half a layer).
  9. When you have completed four layers (this is enough to block any signal from penetrating), tear off the last edge of foil, and use adhesive tape to seal it down.
  10. If the bottom part of your bag is still exposed (i.e. it’s longer than the width of foil), repeat the process above, but ensure that the bottom of the bag sits above the bottom lining of foil with about 5cm (2”) spare.
  11. Next, at the base of your bag, fold the bottom edge of foil upwards, so that excess length is removed. Tape this bottom edge thoroughly so that it creates a nice seal.
  12. Your (rigid) bag now needs to rest inside an outer bag to conceal the foil lining. Carefully insert your foil bag so that it sits all the way inside the outer bag, right down to the bottom.
  13. Tip: You can gently unflatten the foil bag edges so that it puffs out slightly, making it easier to insert (a puffier looking bag is not undesirable, because it makes an empty bag look full).
  14. The bag must be pushed all the way down, so that the handles of both line up evenly.
  15. Fold the top of the outer bag outwards so that the inside bag’s handle is exposed.
  16. Apply double-sided adhesive tape near to the top edge and handle areas of the inside bag (on both sides), so that the outer bag can seal directly on top of it. Avoid placing tape on any of the foil.
  17. Unfold the outer bag and seal it down onto the tape.

How do you test a booster bag?

  1. Place a cell phone inside the your booster bag.
  2. Pick up the bag by the handles, and hold it naturally, as you would in a store.
  3. Call the cell phone from another line. If it doesn’t ring, your bag is secure. If it did, you may need more layers, or check that the top of your bag has been sealed down thoroughly.

 



Vendor Review: sensormatic-hook.com and sensormatichooks.com (NOW SHUT DOWN)

Edit: As of November 09, 2012, both of these websites have been shut down.

As the domain names suggest, these websites only sell a single product – the Sensormatic Hook. Apparently, the vendor believes this item is a hot commodity, and that sales are directly proportionate to the number of websites one can create. Yet none of the websites associated with this person are of good quality, and they appear to be scratched together with stolen images and content from other suppliers.

The Whois Lookup for each site shows registrations of:

  • sensormatic-hook.com (creation date: 25-Jul-2011)
  • sensormatichooks.com (creation date: 06-Mar-2012)
  • removesecuritytags.com (unconfirmed, but likely the same owner)

The first two websites consist of the same, unappealing layout and design. Strangely, they also feature a short video which refers to a separate site, removesecuritytags.com. This domain is not in operation, and if you attempt to bring up the index page, a directory listing with a bunch of raw files is shown (as at August 17, 2012). After completing a Whois Lookup of this domain, we have been unable to ascertain if the third website is related to the first two, as there is a possibility that the video is leeched.

One thing that we can confirm is that these websites ship out of Europe – which explains the higher prices – probably due to higher shipping costs. But the main problem for (US) customers here would more likely be shipping delays due to clearance issues as the ‘package’ passes through customs. As mentioned in a previous post, this item would be subject to screening upon importation, and it is very hard to predict how long this might take, as well as what consequences might result.

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Turning our focus back to the vendor, we can confirm that the email address associated with the first site is hharnikk@gmail.com. For the second site, the vendor appears to operate under the name of Online Solutions. Lastly, if the third website is indeed owned by the same person, we can confirm it is associated with the handle ‘doosh1000’, of which there are many Google search results. These include a Twitter account, a closed eBay account, a Freelancer profile, etc.

We weren’t able to find any trust seals on any of the websites. Additionally, Norton returned both domains with a big question mark, as they’re probably too small (too few users) to be tested. Also, the owner does not display the Google Wallet acceptance logo, so there are no publicly visible reviews. Amusingly though, the vendor does state on one of their web pages that they are;

“… the number one provider of sensormatic hooks in the UK, US and Europe.”

Since Sensormatic hooks are sold online by private vendors only, and not through companies that are required to report their earnings, one has to laugh at the self gratifying nature of such a remark. Conversely, we are of the view that sensormatic-hook.com and sensormatichooks.com are just a bunch of opportunists, and are more likely the most inexperienced and untrustworthy of all vendors in the field.

Alpha S3 Handkey

[Content updated September 27, 2015 – see the comments section further down]

The Alpha S3 Handkey was once a well guarded, enterprise-level device in which Alpha (a division of Checkpoint Systems, Inc.) successfully prevented mainstream use by way of restricting resale to authorised vendors. This has since changed, however, as the public domain began to share information about the device’s components, enabling it to be broken down, reverse engineered, and eventuallyThis diagram shows the layout of magnets similar to those found in the handkey exploited for all to see. Now, it is possible to purchase no-name replicas of the product, or even make one at home by obtaining instructions on how to make a do-it-yourself handkey.

DISCLAIMER: The diagram shown here is not intended to divulge the intellectual property of Checkpoint Systems, Inc. or any of its subsidiaries. The authors intend only to inform visitors to this site of how generic magnetic handkeys could be constructed at home, and no inference to illegal activity in the use of such a device is made herewith.

TagRemovers.com has been able to obtain documents which show that Sand & Sebolt, LPA acts on behalf of Checkpoint in relation to their patent and intellectual property matters. We understand that, from time to time, their patent attorneys attempt to make contact with unauthorised resellers of this item with a cease a desist notice. Initially this may have been an effective solution, but in recent years the proliferation of generic S3 handkeys that have become available, has forced Checkpoint to rethink its strategy. Over time, this had led to the creation of self-alarming security tags and cables which emit an audible beep when they are detached. We will cover these in a later blog post.

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So what types of security devices does the Alpha S3 Handkey open?

In our next blog post we’ll cover the infamous booster bag. We recommend that you register on our site to stay informed of future articles about security tag removers and all things allied. Also, feel free to leave a comment or provide feedback to any of our blog posts. We will keep growing until we become the definitive source for information on tag removal. Join us while we’re still young…

Vendor Review: shrinkcontrol.com

The domain shrinkcontrol.com was registered less than a year ago (December 19, 2011), however, it has the same registrant details as handkeys.com (which redirects to the new domain). It is possible that the website owner changed names due to some scathing Internet reviews of handkeys.com, perhaps in an attempt to rebrand itself. On first inspection of the new website, one is given the impression that it offers a wide variety of retail theft solutions, but on closer inspection it becomes apparent that it’s only selling detaching devices under the guise of a loss prevention image.

We Googled ‘shrinkcontrol.com reviews’ and the first link that came up was from ripoffreport.com. Here, it is mentioned that the website used to accept PayPal, but somewhere along the line their account was revoked. One possible reason this occurred could be due to some customers claiming they had their PayPal account permanently limited (banned) when purchasing from Shrink Control, as there have been reports that the owner was being pursued by authorities:

“The website, www.handkeys.com, along with other multiple aliases, is operated by an individual known to be selling stolen goods. As of November 1st 2011, authorities have instructed the website host to terminate the domain, and all pages have been subsequently removed at the request of the Sensormatic Corporation.”

Tag Removers decided to perform its own investigation. We started by reviewing their website, but it does not display any trust or safety seals. So, we went ahead and entered the domain at safeweb.norton.com and it brought up a big question mark. It seems the website has not been around long enough to establish conclusive evidence of its authenticity. This sounds like a familiar story; it’s been a well known tactic by scammers to close up shop and then reappear elsewhere in order to evade its own reputation.While we can’t prove shrinkcontrol.com is a scam, users should still exercise caution. There is a chance that if you have purchased from this website, personally identifiable sales records may have been seized by the Sensormatic Corporation.

Vendor Review: Detacher Co (recommended)

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Detacher Co screenshotDetacher Co. operates a website at the domain www.detacher.co. It was registered in April 2011 and operates out of the United States and Australia. According to their about us page, they have two shipping centres, one in South Carolina (US) and another in Western Australia (AU). Detacher Co appears to be relatively up-front about the integrity of its own operations: Their testimonials page contains a snapshot of their Google Wallet rating (4.0 out of 5 stars), and they acknowledge their overall rating contains a few bad reviews which they have not attempted to hide. We’ve been told that since November 20, 2013, Google Checkout for tangible goods has retired, so the website now hosts an open platform based reviewing system.

On some of its pages a Norton Secured trust seal is displayed. We successfully verified their safety claim at safeweb.norton.com. This is a rarity, because out of all the websites we tested on this blog, this was the only one to be Norton secured.

Detacher Co. promotes a warranty feature which it offers on some of its products, including the Sensormatic hook. The warranty is a replacement part guarantee valid for 12 months from the date of purchase. We wanted to verify this assertion, so I sent them an email querying what exactly the warranty covers, and got the following response;

“Products that are marked with a 12 month guarantee will be replaced at no charge should the item become defective within the warranty period. We define the term ‘defective’ to mean ‘no longer working per our product description, or no longer fit for its intended purpose, excluding any damage caused by wear and tear’. For more information, please refer to www.detacher.co/refund.html.”

Prices for the Sensormatic hook start at US$24.98, shipped, and get cheaper the more that you order – for example, the price for five pieces is US$79.95. The Golf Superlock Detacher (FX7) starts at US$99.95, shipped. Recall that these items are dispatched from South Carolina (for US customers), not from overseas sources. ETAs can be viewed on their shipping information page.

When conducting background checks of this website, we discovered that Detacher Co. is owned and operated by Tag-it! Security. This business has a registered name and Australian Business Number (ABN) listed at business.gov.au. Tag-It! Security runs its own, separate loss prevention website and appears to offer a wider range of security tags and detection systems. Alternatively, Detacher Co. specialises in security tag removal devices and deactivation systems.

We also found the following pages which appear to be aligned with Detacher Co:

If you know anything else about this business, leave a reply.

Golf SuperLock Detacher (FX7)

Golf SuperLock Detacher FX7The Golf SuperLock Detacher (FX7) is a powerful magnetic detacher that is capable of discoupling most types of Radio Frequency (RF) tags on the market today. The detacher is designed to be placed on the countertop, in the point-of-sale area, and secured from the base (there are multiple holes underneath for this purpose). It is approximately 71mm in diameter (2.8in), weighs about 400g (14oz) and is just small enough to be portable. Watch a demonstration video here.

With 12,000 to 15,000 Gauss (GS), this product is one of the most powerful detachers available. Guass is the unit of magnetic field strength measured from the surface. It is important to know because security tags cannot be opened with just an average magnet. In fact, some types of security tags cannot be opened with anything less than 10,000 GS. The shape of the FX7 is also important because it allows for placement of ‘clamshell‘ (or ‘golf’) hard tags flush against its surface. With indented magnetic detachers, clamshell tags are not nested completely and, therefore, lose a margin of their field stength.

The material of the SuperLock Detacher is constructed of an outer aluminium coating. Inside are several neodymium magnets (rare earth magnets) that are glued together as one piece in the shape of a cross. These neodymium magnets are prone to finding the closest piece of metal to attach itself to, and can be dangerous to handle. Here’s a link to a video of the detacher being opened up and dismantled to reveal the inside components.

Median prices of this product range between US$79.95 to US$99.95, plus shipping. Similar to other items in the industry, there are a number of knock-offs available. These are mostly cheap imports made in China. The main problem with these is, firstly, they lack the same nagnetic field strength and, secondly, they lose their magnetic force more quickly, eventually degrading to the point when they are no longer able to unpin a security tag. Visually, it’s hard to tell the difference between an authentic product and the imitation. Generally though, like with other electronics, anything that you find that is ridiculously cheap is probably not the real deal.

Check out our Vendor Reviews for some recommended websites where you can purchase this item. And if you have an item that you want us to research, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll schedule it for an upcoming blog post.

Vendor Review: VP EAS Accessories

VP EAS Accessories appears to be operated by a one-man-band and conducts transactions from the email address; vinipooh123@gmail.com. There are conflicting stories on the Internet about the legitimacy of this operation. We found an article on a consumer review website labelled The VP EAS Accessories scam. That article features a discussion from several users about their experience with this business, as well as claims of potential fraudulent activity. The owner / operator also participates in that discussion, and has attempted to rebuke these statements.

Vini Pooh, as he is also known, also runs a website at myshopify.com. On the website, numerous testimonials from various screen names have been posted, however, they look like they have been cut-and-paste and visitors have no way of authenticating this information, or leaving any reviews of their own. Suspiciously, there is not one single bad review, so it seems the owner wants to create a good impression without supplying reviews from trusted feedback sources. Sound a bit shady? It gets better…

After conducting a bit of research, we discovered that VP EAS Accessories is operated by Michael Filev, as confirmed here by BusinessWest. Then, when we Googled this person’s name, we uncovered some interesting stories about criminal activities involving Checkpoint Systems, Inc. According to this article published by Alpha (Alpha is a division of Checkpoint), a sting was set up where Filev was offered gift cards in lieu of payment. Later, when the gift cards were redeemed, his identity was revealed, and they were subsequently able to prosecute.

This article will be updated as more information comes to hand.

Sensormatic Hook (Detacher Hook Key)

Sensormatic hook (detacher hook key)The Sensormatic hook is probably the most famous of all detaching devices, mainly because it is inexpensive, durable and small enough to fit in one’s pocket. Sensormatic designed this tool to fit inside the larger detaching device known as the AMD-3040 Hand-Held Detacher. Despite this, it has been well known for some time that the hook works by itself, as demonstrated by several videos on YouTube. Indeed, the hand-held detacher is an easier way of guiding the hook into the correct position when inserted into the security tag, but savvy ‘shoppers’ have learnt that, with a little practice, this can be done by hand. As a result, this negates the need to purchase a large, bulky hand-held detacher.

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What types of security tags does the Sensormatic hook open? Well, it can be used to open all types of hard tags from the SuperTag family, and this includes:

  1. SuperTags I, II and III
  2. SuperTag III Lanyard
  3. SuperTag Ink
  4. Alarming SuperTag
  5. SuperTag Mini
  6. Visible Source Tag (VST)

A unique aspect of the SuperTag family is that, unlike most other types of security tags, none of them are magnetic based (meaning that none of them can be discoupled with a magnet). Reason being, Sensormatic holds a patent on the SuperTag’s locking mechanism, which consists of a pin that is connected by a rotary clamp and spring gate… This is where the Sensormatic hook comes in, because the hook contains a groove which acts as a key when inserted into that locking mechanism.

Now, before you get too excited and go and order this item, be aware that, due to the popularity of this product, it seems there has been a flood of cheap imitations hitting the market. The median price of the Sensormatic hook is around US$25 to US$35 per piece. It’s recommended that you steer clear of cheap Chinese imports which are available for much less. There are several problems with these imported knock-offs:

  1. The groove in the metal is not always aligned correctly, which prevents it from working when inserted into the SuperTag
  2. They bend easily (tempered steel should not bend at all)
  3. The hook can often get stuck in the hard tag when trying to open it, and in some cases cannot be removed (the lock is precise)
  4. When you import the product, there is a risk that customs will trace it to your address causing your personal details to become compromised

Regarding the last point, in the United States it is not illegal to order this product, but the risk still remains that federal customs may be aware that you have imported the item. Subsequently, if something untoward were to happen at some time in the future they, and any federal law enforcement agency, would know of the address you had this item shipped to. This compromises your defence if you ever come into a situation where you are asked to justify your reasons for ordering such an item. Yet this problem can be avoided entirely when ordering from suppliers that ship within the US, so take this as a good word of advice.

Whilst on the topic of law enforcement, if someone were to be apprehended in a retail outlet with this item in their possession, there would be dire consequences. Obviously there are some people who will use it to shoplift, but the main purpose of this article is to assist people who have had security tags left on their clothing. So, if you are intent on performing illegal activities, be aware that the mere possession of this tool can result in multiple charges or felonies </disclaimer rant>.

Moving right along; there are several vendors on the Internet who sell this product to the public. A small number have been around for a while with a good reputation, while some newcomers are leaving a trail of destruction with countless unhappy reviews from disgruntled customers. See the relevant blog post where I discuss each vendor and post links to their customer reviews and satisfaction ratings.

In the next article, we’ll talk about magnetic based security tags, and how they can be overcome. The devices used to remove these types of tags are more expensive, but in the long-run they pay off because magnetic based hard tags are the most common type in the industry. If you can’t wait and want to avoid reading all of these articles, submit help ticket with an image of the security tag you want to detach, and someone will quickly respond with a solution.