Avoid buying or importing shoplifting tools from China

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued a statement warning Internet users of their liabilities when purchasing certain goods from overseas suppliers. More often, we are hearing of items (potentially used for shoplifting) being seized, such as the detacher hook or magnetic pocket detachers.

On its website, U.S. Customs and Border Protection states;

“When goods move from any foreign country to the United States, they are being IMPORTED. There are specific rules and regulations that govern the act of importing – and they can be extremely complex and confusing – and costly.”

Using very clear and an increasingly authoritarian tone, they go on to state;

“When you buy goods from foreign sources, you become the importer. And it is the importer – in this case, YOU – who is responsible for assuring that the goods comply with a variety of both state and federal government import regulations.”

Two of the most important points that our readers should be concerned about are:

  1. Can the goods be legally imported?
  2. Can you trust the seller to provide accurate information about the item being shipped in the Customs section of the shipping documents?

So, if you’re not a shopkeeper, and you shouldn’t be in possession of these items, then you certainly should not be importing them. We advised our readers in a post on August 12, 2012, to avoid the issue altogether by purchasing from reputable USA based sellers. By doing so you avoid any permit issues and will not have your shipment scrutinised by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent who has the power to seize your goods and notify any relevant authority.



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.

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.