Theft from a retail location can take many forms. When people generally think about shoplifting, they usually assume that a person is trying to conceal an item in their pocket or in some other way and then leave the store without paying. And this certainly does happen a lot of the time, especially with small items that are easily concealed.

But another form is known as price tag switching. It is also sometimes referred to as the fraudulent removal of writing. This is also illegal, and it is another type of theft.

How it works

Price tag switching is a fairly easy tactic that people use to make it appear that something is worth less than it is. Essentially, they know that the cashier is just going to scan the tag on the item when they take it to the counter. If they take off the tag and swap it with one that comes up at a much lower amount, they’re simply hoping that the cashier will not notice and will charge them that lower amount.

For instance, someone might be in a store looking at a jacket that costs $200. They don’t want to pay that much, but they do want the coat. They go to another part of the store and take a tag off of a lightweight jacket that only costs $50. Then they switch the tags and head for the register. If the cashier isn’t paying close attention – something that is very hard to do with dozens and dozens of customers coming through the line – they may charge the customer $50 for the $200 coat. This is essentially the theft of $150 worth of merchandise from the store.

Tag switching has become popular in the era of electronic alarm systems. People know that many items that don’t get scanned at checkout are just going to set off the alarms. They can’t steal them outright. They may resort to tag switching as a way of saving money, if not getting those items for free.

Are you facing charges?

You could certainly be facing tag switching charges for something that you didn’t do it intentionally. Maybe an employee put the wrong tag on the item, or maybe another customer switched it and you didn’t know. A misunderstanding could lead to serious theft allegations, and then it’s very important to understand all of your legal defense options.