Warning Signs to Spot Stolen Merchandise


The Pawnbroker Advisory Forum is a place for Pawnbrokers to share advice, best practices, ideas and ask questions. Below is a list of responses from our members when asked how to spot stolen merchandise.

  1. Is the item missing a charger? This is a warning sign but not a total lockout. Get more info.
  2. The customer doesn’t know iCloud password
  3. They have three copies of the same game wrapped in plastic
  4. The customer doesn’t know how the item works
  5. Always have the customer demonstrate the item. Game systems, laptops, TVs, etc.
  6. For bikes, ask how many speeds
  7. For watches, ask the year
  8. Look for initials on tools and see if they match up
  9. Is the gaming system missing controllers or cords?
  10. The customer is selling the item at a giveaway price
  11. They are from “out of town”
  12. Phone and camera pictures don’t line up with the person
  13. Ask for gamer tags or names on systems before you fire them up. Then verify.
  14. The customer spends an inordinate amount of time in the parking lot before coming in or parks across the street
  15. Time pressure can be a warning sign. The minute someone comes in trying to rush you, something may be off. The item may be broken, or sometimes it is cover for the buddy who is shoplifting.
  16. Ask the customer how the tool is used
  17. When they say, “I lost my ID”
  18. Ask, “How long have you owned this?” Watch and listen to their reaction.

Customers are proud of their merchandise, and usually know everything about it. Ask questions; this is the key to uncovering information whether it is in actual answers or body language. If they don’t know about the item, they probably don’t own it. Finally, go with your gut.