How to Report a Shoplifter

Shoplifting affects everyone, since companies make up their losses in higher prices for consumers. Counteract this by reporting shoplifters when you see them. Here are steps for observing and then reporting a person shoplifting.

Witness the shoplifting episode. Be certain that the suspected shoplifter has selected store merchandise and that he or she has attempted to carry it away.

Watch the customer to make sure that he or she still has the item when you make the report.

Wait until the shoplifter has had a chance to pay but instead leaves the store before you make a report.

Notify a security guard or loss prevention agent of what you've witnessed, and all the while maintain visual surveillance on the suspect.

If there are no security guards tell a store employee and stay to explain what you have seen. Without your testimony, it will be difficult to prove that it was an intentional theft when criminal charges are filed.

Consider calling the store or the local police if you would like to stay anonymous.

Educate children about shoplifting before reporting them, as shoplifting is often an activity that young people engage in due to peer pressure. The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention provides shoplifting education materials (see Resources below).


  • Avoid using physical force to stop a suspected shoplifter. You may be liable for injury or assault charges.
  • Compulsive shoplifting, or kleptomania, is a form of addiction. If you suspect someone you know is a kleptomaniac, urge him or her to seek counseling.
  • The main deterrent for shoplifting is being caught and being punished. When people are able to get away with shoplifting or there are no consequences, there is no motivation to stop.

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