What is Costco’s Policy on Shoplifting?

Costco has a simple formula for success: low prices and high-quality merchandise. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges.

Like any other business, Costco has to deal with shoplifters. This post will explain Costco’s shoplifting policy: How they prevent the vice and what happens if you get caught shoplifting.

Costco Shoplifting Policy

Costco has a zero-tolerance policy for shoplifting. If you get caught stealing, you will be permanently banned from the store and all other Costco locations worldwide. The company will also prosecute shoplifters, including its employees if found stealing merchandise. Such employees also have their services terminated immediately.

Costco uses a “no-touch” policy that ensures minimal contact with products when they are going through the supply chain. The products leave the suppliers wrapped in pallets and reach the consumers in the same condition. This strategy promotes efficiency and reduces labor and logistical costs.

How Does Costco Deter Shoplifting?

Costco has a reputation for being a retailer that doesn’t get hit with many shoplifting incidents. But while the company’s stores may be low-crime, they’re not entirely immune to theft. Costco uses several ways to deter shoplifting, such as:

  • Security cameras – Costco stores have CCTV cameras strategically located throughout the warehouse to monitor activity and record any incidents of theft or other crimes by customers or employees
  • Employees – Costco’s loss prevention employees look for specific behaviors that indicate potential theft or criminal activity within their stores. Additionally, they have access to security cameras to monitor shoppers’ movements throughout the store
  • Security guards – Costco locations have security guards on site who monitor the store for suspicious activity or potential theft incidents. The guards have every right to detain you before you leave Costco’s property if they suspect you of shoplifting
  • Security tags – Costco uses tags placed on merchandise that trigger an alarm when removed from their packaging while leaving the store. The tags can be attached by employees or placed onto items at their point of sale. They’re also used on clothing racks and shelving units to prevent theft by employees and shoppers alike
  • Receipt check – Costco has a policy of checking receipts after every purchase. Its membership agreement states that you need to show your receipt as you exit the warehouse. An employee compares your receipt with what’s in your shopping cart and bag. If there are any differences between them, you will have to explain or show proof of payment for any items missing from your receipt

To discourage employee theft, Costco pays its workers well above average wages. This means they do not need to steal from their employer, reducing such incidences among employees.

Costco’s membership policy also means they have records of their customers at hand. Therefore, the retailer can track down any members who shoplift and take the necessary measures.

What is Costco’s Store Loss Prevention?

Costco has a minimal rate of theft. The company says it loses about 0.12% of its sales to shoplifting, which is much less than its competitors like Walmart and Target.

Here are some of the tactics that keep Costco’s shrinkage low:

Costco uses its store layout to make it hard for shoplifters to conceal items or escape undetected after stealing something from the store. Their stores’ large size ensures ample space between shelves, making it hard to hide items without being seen.

The company also places items strategically throughout its stores. For example, you’ll find some of the most shoplifted things near the exit, where employees can track the movements and activities of shoppers as they leave.

The membership card system is also an effective way for Costco to track customer purchases. Store employees can use this information to help identify shoplifters.

Costco also has controlled entry and exit points monitored by its loss prevention workers to reduce theft incidences. In case of a shoplifting incident, the workers will detain the culprit in a separate room until the police arrive. In case of resistance, Costco’s security guards don’t necessarily touch or force the shoplifter to comply but will take measures to prevent them from leaving the scene.

What Happens If You Get Caught Shoplifting at Costco?

If you get caught shoplifting at Costco, the store’s policy is to call the police. Costco has two approaches for shoplifting: one for Costco employees and one for non-employees. Employees caught shoplifting are charged for the offense and fired immediately without severance or benefits.

Non-employees or customers caught shoplifting can also be arrested and charged with a felony or theft by deception, a misdemeanor. Your charges depend on the items stolen and whether you are a repeat offender. If you’re a Costco member, your membership may be revoked permanently and banned from shopping at all Costco locations.

How Does Costco Handle Shoplifters?

Costco will file charges against suspected shoplifters if they believe there’s enough evidence to prosecute them. However, not all thefts are reported or prosecuted.

If you get caught stealing from Costco, they’ll ask you to return the merchandise before leaving the store. If you refuse to return the items, they’ll call police officers to escort you off the premises and press charges against you if necessary.

The chances of getting caught shoplifting are high, with Costco’s loss prevention agents trained to spot potential shoplifters. For instance, they watch out for people who:

  • Are in an aisle without any items in their cart or basket
  • Have only a few things, and they don’t seem like they’re buying them for themselves
  •  Are inappropriately dressed. For example, wearing sunglasses at night
  • Look nervous and jumpy when approached by employees, as if they are afraid of getting caught stealing

What to Do When You Witness Shoplifting at Costco

  • Shoplifting is a common problem at Costco, but it can be even more difficult to deal with if you witness it. Here are some tips for what to do when you notice shoplifting at Costco:
  • Don’t confront the shoplifter yourself. This can be very dangerous as some shoplifters may be armed or willing to hurt others to get away with their crime
  • Report it immediately to an employee
  • Make eye contact with the suspected shoplifter or their accomplice. In most cases, this will alert them that you are aware of their schemes and discourage them from proceeding with the crime
  • Note where they conceal the item they have shoplifted. Then let the employee at the door know so they can stop them before they leave
  • Try to mark the person you saw stealing from Costco until help arrives. If possible, get a description of them (height, weight, hair color), but don’t follow them out of the store or try to stop them yourself

Will Costco File Charges For Shoplifting?

Costco will press charges if you leave the store without paying for an item. This policy applies even if you don’t have an active membership with Costco or aren’t a member.

Costco will revoke your membership immediately for stealing from the store. If Costco cancels your membership due to shoplifting, you’ll lose all rights to use the warehouse store or Costco fuel locations.


Can you go back to Costco after shoplifting?

If you are caught shoplifting at Costco, your chances of going back to shop there depend on how they deal with it. For example, if Costco presses criminal charges, you may not be able to go back there for a while, as per the court orders.

If you do, Costco may charge you with criminal trespass. However, if Costco handles the issue internally, you may be banned for a specific time and then be allowed to reinstate your Costco membership.

Does Costco have undercover security?

Costco has security guards who pose as shoppers to ensure the security of everyone in the stores and minimize incidences of shoplifting. The guards look for suspicious behavior, and they blend easily with other shoppers enhancing the retail chain’s loss prevention measures.

Do shoplifters get a criminal record?

Shoplifting is a crime in all states. The consequences of a shoplifting charge depend on your state, but shoplifting will generally be considered a misdemeanor. You’ll get a criminal record if you get convicted of shoplifting. You may also have to pay restitution or community service time, depending on the circumstances and severity of your crime.

Does Costco have security cameras in their stores?

Costco has security cameras in its stores. The retail store has CCTV surveillance systems run by a central monitoring room that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The systems detect theft and other criminal activity inside their stores.

Can you get caught shoplifting weeks later?

Yes, it’s possible to get caught shoplifting weeks or months later. Retailers may press charges against you even after a specific time has passed since the shoplifting incident. The statute of limitations for each state varies, so in some cases, you can still get charged years after the crime took place.


Costco has a strict shoplifting policy. If you get caught shoplifting, you’ll be charged and have your membership revoked. Employees who get caught stealing have their employment terminated. The retailer uses loss prevention employees, security cameras, and security guards, among others, to prevent shoplifting.

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