Thursday, March 08, 2007

How to remove a security ink tag

Last Monday I was flying to Scotland for a few days to have a chat with a few of our customers up there. I thought I would show them due respect so on Sunday afternoon I popped into Marks and Spencer and bought a new suit. When I got home I set to making our Sunday roast dinner so didn't think about the whistle until about eleven that night when I went to pack. To my annoyance I found this bad boy attached to the arm. Clearly the assistant in the shop had missed it when he was putting the suit in a bag for me.

At first I wasn't too bothered. After all - it would just take a bit of brute force to rip it off and all would be well for the morning. However, when I looked at the other side - my heart skipped a beat.

What at first look like a simple dongle to trigger an alarm at a security gate was in fact an ink tag. I immediately started thinking of the paint bombs that are placed in bags of money to prevent theft! Was this device explosive? Was it dangerous?

I soon came to my sense. Of course Marks and Sparks aren't going to try and blow up their customers. That would be very bad for business. The device must be passive. But I was still left with a dilemma. It was eleven o'clock at night so I couldn't go back to the store to remove it and I was flying first thing so couldn't pop into the shop in the morning either. My other suit was at the dry cleaners so I had no option. I had to figure a way of getting it off without covering myself and my new suit with ink.

Obviously being a geek, my first step was to check on the Internet to see if there were examples of how other people had done this. I was very surprised to see that there was so little information and what there was involved power tools to break the "clip" part of the device so that it would release the pin that connected it to the ink container. This seemed like massive overkill to me. Isn't the obvious weak point the pin?

So I went and assembled the vast array of tools that I would require to crack the device.

Firstly I just ripped off the cardboard notice which meant there was just enough room to get my snippers in. I was being as gentle as I could because this was obviously putting pressure on the ink container.

I don't know what the pin is made of, but it certainly took a fair bit of effort to eventually snip through it. Let me be very clear at this point just for in case you are an aspiring shop lifter and think I have just described how to deactivate security devices. I have no idea how close this came to releasing the ink all over my hands and suit. I only attempted this because I had no choice and was probably emboldened be a few glasses of red wine during dinner. If you try this you will be covered in ink and caught by the store detective who will throw you in jail! Crime doesn't pay.

Any way. That was it. The top was off

The device was off the suit and I was able to fly off to Scotch Land the next day in my fine new dapper suit. The story could indeed have stopped there.

However, I was curious about the ink device. How did it work and what would it do? On my return from Scotland the only thing on my mind was experimenting! As you can see below there appear to be two glass vials, one containing blue liquid and the other yellow.

I put the device in a plastic bag to prevent making a mess and tried to pry the top off using a screw driver.

I didn't have any luck pulling the top off so I decided to get a bit more agricultural and just smashed my way in. This enabled me to see that the mechanism couldn't be any simpler. The pin is connected at the bottom to a disc which would be pulled up if pressure where exerted smashing the glass vials of ink. I wonder how close I came when cutting the pin?

I pulled the pin with a pair of pliers and the yellow vial smashed very easily releasing the ink.

Tipping the bits out it is clear that there is quite a bit of yellow ink in there. You can also see the pin and disc much more clearly.

Here is the blue ink vial. It was not broken because I had smashed the case so there was uneven pressure on the two vials. If the device had been intact then they would both have been released at the same time.

Here is the blue vial after I had cleaned the yellow gunk off it. Can you guess what TV program I'm watching as I push forwards the bounds of ink tag science? It's "Heroes" which is meant to be the new "Lost" apparently.

The blue vial was going to have to be smashed as well so into the bag it goes.

Splat! A very gentle tap with the screw driver handle and the second vial is a goner.

There appears to be more of the blue ink that there was of the yellow. It also seems to be of a thinner consistency - in fact just about the consistency of ink you would use in an ink pen.

I can only speculate that the designers chose to use yellow and blue since that would enable the device to be used with any coloured garment. The blue might not have shown up very much on my blue suit but the yellow certainly would. Unless you were stealing a Hawaiian shirt it is a very efficient deterrent.

Finally, just to reiterate, I was lucky. Don't try this unless you have no choice and don't mind getting ink on your hands and cloths.


UPDATE: 9th March 2007
Some cheeky anonymous monkey left the following comment: "Hang on.... surely a *real* geek would also dismantle the other half to find out what's holding the other end of the pin? Inquiring minds need to know!"

So another dig into my tool chest produces my little pen knife. I start hacking away at the case.

It's quite tough but after a few minutes I'm making headway.

Result! I prise the two half's apart to find this fella inside. Hmmm. Still none the wiser.

I'm expecting some great revelation when I separate it from the case - but no.

There is a metal bit at the bottom but the rest is covered by the second plastic cover.

What I do find quite interesting is that the remaining bit of pin cannot be removed by pulling it from the bottom (obviously) but it can be very easily be removed by pulling it from the top. Of course this makes sense because the pin needs to be inserted easily when it is still attached to the ink tank but how is this being achieved? I expected to see a notch or some such indentation on the pin which would be caught by some sort of one way catch - but I'm wrong. That isn't how it works.

When I remove the second cover I'm even more confused. What is with the spring! How does this thing possibly work?

Here is the metal bit disassembled. Note that the four ball bearings sit inside the brass coloured sleeve. I have rested them against the pin to stop them rolling away.

Finally - the whole top bit shown disassembled. Note that there doesn't appear to be any transmitter or RFID or anything like that to trigger an alarm. I think that this device is just an ink tag and not designed to do anything else. I guess this is why the alarm didn't go off when I left the store.

Oh! So you want to know how it works as well? OK here is the secret. And I must say it is mighty smart. The ball bearings sit in the sleeve as mentioned above. As you can see there is only just enough room for them.

When you insert the pin the bearings become cramped. If you try and pull the pin downwards it is prevented from moving because of the friction from the bearings. They have nowhere that they can go. However, if you pull the pin from the top it works fine because the ball bearings can move upwards releasing the pin.

So by placing a washer and spring on the top (see the previous disassembly photo) it means that you have a nice enclosed unit that will only let a pin pass through it in one direction. However, the ball bearings are magnetised, so at the checkout the dongle can be placed inside a powerful ring magnet that will pull the bearings slightly upward against the force of the spring releasing the pin. Clever.

Eyethangewe.

Update 22nd April 2007.
Who would believe it - it's only happened again! Not an ink tag this time - just an ordinary one. Watch and learn ... http://www.mrports.com/2007/04/remove-security-tag-redux.html

202 comments:

1 – 200 of 202   Newer›   Newest»
Stu said...

One thing doesn't add up. If you had to do all this to extract the tag from your suit, why is there no suit attached to the tag in the pictures?

Anonymous said...

When I was a naughty lad the way to get round the ink tags was to stick the whole garment in the freezer so the ink froze and you could remove the tag with no dangers.

Anonymous said...

He's cleary just put the tag back on the ink part to take the photos.

Root Ginger said...

I'm guessing the photos were staged after extraction. Look at the angle of two parts when it's supposedly being cut. If the two parts had reached this angle for real the vials would have been broken.

Anonymous said...

So come on then, how did you get it off the suit first ?

ha ha ha ... the thieving pikey got busted.

Mr Ports said...

Root ginger is correct. I took the tag off the suit on the Sunday night with no photo's. When I got back I staged it to show how it was done before opening up the ink bit.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many of these get set off in-store... Interesting retail-denial-of-service-device they've self installed... :P

Anonymous said...

even more interesting: how did you manage to get the suit out of the shop without triggering the alarm?

Anonymous said...

Please trim your fingernails

Anonymous said...

For future reference, all you need to do to remove one of these tags is to use a fairly strong magnet, that's all the shops use.

If you look inside the little nub that fits over the pin there should be another little disc that moves off the pin when a magnet is used.

Mr Ports said...

Some Answers:

1. I have no idea why the alarm didn't go off.

2. I can't trim my nails as I need them to play guitar. Cheeky Monkey!

3. I'm afraid that at 11pm on Sunday night most of the fairly strong magnet shops are closed.

Scotty Dawg said...

I have had the same kind of thing happen to me. The alarm does go off when you leave the store. However its amazing that if you are entirely confident that its not you and there are lots of people entering and leaving then you just walk on convinced that some twot of a thief has just got caught. When I removed the tag after carefully peering at the little bit of wire I could see. I realised that my pliers were too thick so instead used garden shears, which are rather thin and slot in nicely (the ones you use for pruning roses and the like) It does take a little pressure but then bingo!

Anonymous said...

Hang on.... surely a *real* geek would also dismantle the other half to find out what's holding the other end of the pin? Inquiring minds need to know!

Anonymous said...

I wonder of the blue and yellow ink is supposed to mix and create a green ink (green being the Marks and Sparks corporate colour)?

Just a thought

Anonymous said...

The pin should be hollow and connected to the ink tanks under pressure. Then cutting it will be unsafe and proper detachment of the non-ink end will be necessary.

Anonymous said...

Surely if you just placed a plastic bag around the ink cartridge and cut away, you'd be fine.

I suppose they design these things with the assumption that any tampering is done in-store. They should also use a really strong sulphurous compound to make the clothes smell like Les Battersby's underwear.

jazzle said...

re two colours: surely it's so that if you buy something yellow the blue still stains it and vice versa...

Anonymous said...

Just another idea with the two colours. Maybe one is designed to do maximum damage to the garment, while the other is designed to be impossible to wash off your hands so it brands you a thieving pikey for all to see.

That might explain why they were different consistencies as well as different colours.

fartles said...

what image script are you using that breaks the back button if I click for an enlargement? it's pretty annoying.

Mr Ports said...

Fartles, I don't know what is doing it. I just use the default image tool on Blogger. I'd forgotten because I have got into the habbit of opening in new window to get round it. I'd love to know how to fix it.

Dave said...

Could you use a magnet at home to release it then, now that you know that's how it works at the store?

Anonymous said...

You sad geek! How long did it take you to set up all those photos?

I can't believe the number of comments this has caused- more than even the announcement of a Herbert!(Come on folks the imminent ACTUAL Herbert birth announcement has got to be worth more than this.)

Enjoy this while it lasts Ports ,if Mrs. P allows you to spend your quality time on lost causes like this when you are a daddy ,you will be the luckiest dad ever -or you won't be pulling your weight!!!!

Hope all is well.
Sue

Mr Ports said...

Dave, I guess it would be possible but you would need some pretty strong magnets to pull the ball bearings against the strength of the spring. You would also have to find a way of arranging them around the dongle to apply equal force.

All in all you would prolly be better off paying for your suit :-)

Anonymous said...

How could you not mix the two vials? It looks like they were designed to mix and produce some kind of exciting reaction. Please tell me you still have some left :P

ian said...

Fartles - it's to do with the frameset that's remapping mrports.com to the actual blog. Reading this might help solve it, Mr Ports.
http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=55373

(Do I get my honorary geek ink tag now?)

Mr Ports said...

Ian - you are a star. All of Fartles gripes are now resolved - and they have been bugging me for quite a while as well. So a heart felt thanks for pointing me in the right direction. It did cause me to sweat a bit when mrports.com went blank after the change you recommended, but I quickly learned about remapping and changing CNAME records at my domain name vendors web site. So both a woo! and geek tag to you kind sir.

Anonymous said...

If you were really Mythbusters, you would have put the ink vials in the freezer to see if they freeze. If so, you can hack away with pliers and wirecutters with no fear of inky mess.

In this case, it sounds like there were originally two tags: an alarm triggered by the barriers you walk through, and an ink tag. They removed the alarm, but forgot the other one. It really sounds like the ink tag isn't much of a deterrent though.

Mr Ports said...

"It really sounds like the ink tag isn't much of a deterrent though."

Firstly - how do you know what is in the tag? Obviously we know what is in this one - but there are loads of different types.

Secondly - one false move and the garment could be covered in ink. Seems like a pretty good deterrent to me. I only tried it because I was out of options and full of wine :-)

greensheep said...

The yellow ink is thick so that it won't soak into a dark garment and be invisible. The blue ink is thin so it WILL soak into a light garment and make a lovely big stain!

Syncubus said...

Thanks for this great article! I found it educational.

Two curiosities:
Is the column the bearings are in slightly tapered so they wedge against the post?

Were the vials pressurized at all?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps just speculation, but the inks were of vastly different character; one thin and blue the other viscous and yellow. You mentioned that perhaps this would allow them to retain some detection value on a variety of clothing colors, but might I suggest something else? My guess is one is water-based to some extent, and the other oil-based. I think they do not literally mix well, so they can distinctly stand out on the same fabric for sometime. Since you never mixed them in the pictures I could not tell. Have you other photos showing them reacting together, blending, or not?

rob said...

I had a shop which received an end of season job-lot of clothes from a department store, some of which were tagged. They ALL use the 4 ball-bearings to hold the pin in device. Simplest way is to hold 'em in a vice & saw the top of the domed piece of the tag & the whole thing falls apart. Freezing the ink ones is clever mind.

Anonymous said...

Having worked at a department store, I know people leave the ink tags on more often than you'd think. It's quite easy to go back in the store and ask them to take it off. I worked in a small town at the time, and we'd remove tags for other stores not in the area.

Or you could do what one of my friends did and while you're stealing things, steal the ink tag remover to make future thefts that much more convenient.

Another common shoplifter tactic was to wrap the ink side of the tag in a plastic bag (50% of the time they'd bring their own, 50% of the time, they'd just find an empty counter and grab one of ours) and yank them off in the fitting rooms. Most of the time the bag would catch the ink, and the times it didn't they'd leave the clothes in the fitting room and try again.

Neil said...

so the solution to all shoplifting is a really strong magnet? this is *kinda* like the ow to on removing them red things from dvd cases

Mr Ports said...

Some Answers:

Syncubus - yes the column is is slightly tapered to force the bearings around the post.

The vials may have been slightly pressurized.

I did not get a chance to mix the inks since the yellow ink had dried by the time I broke the blue vial.

scartoonist said...

Would you kindly consider holding a pin against a grinding wheel (high speed shop type) and photograph the spark plume? I am quite curious what metal alloy they used for an application like this. The color and strength of the plume will give an answer or at least a clue.

I will publicly guess a nickel alloy, so as to add drama to the endeavor.

Anonymous said...

There's an easy way to get those off, hold a lighter to the nipple part until it melts and the spring pops out it will release the pin with no danger of breaking the ink. Make sure you don't burn your clothes.

Anonymous said...

Many stores, including the one I used to work at don't actually have alarms, the tags are just a deterrant.

Anonymous said...

Ports, you own a suit ????

MW

Anonymous said...

I bought an expensive goretex ski-jacket that had 3 of the fuckers attached. I explained to the counter bunny that selling a jacket that has seam seals and laser cut zips to prevent any unwanted air interchange, then poking 3 holes in it was a bit silly, but it fell on deaf ears.

rosetta said...

there's a very good reason for there being blue AND yellow ink, and for the yellow ink being of a thicker consistency, and it is this.

if you have a light coloured garment, such as yellow, the yellow ink will now show up, but the blue ink will stain it nicely. if you however have a black garment, a thin yellow ink would simply be absorbed, you need a thick yellow ink in order to sit on the fabric, and show up nice and bright. :)

hope i was some help!

x

Anonymous said...

Did you mix the inks?
Did anything happen?
A bang?
A demon was summoned from the depths?
It went green?
Need to know! ;)

Anonymous said...

That yellow gunk looked like UV paint. I bet if you held a black-light or other UV producing light to it it would glow pretty well.

Kerr said...

Re: Tags on ski jackets.

When I bought my last ski jacket the counter bunny didn't remove the tags. I didn't notice till I was wearing it on holiday, becuase they attached them to the linings of the pockets.

They're still there ;) I was planing to take a dremmel to them, but I've got some strong magnets, so I'll give that a bash.

desiree said...

We bought a jacket in Miami and at home in Europe we discovered, that the smart inc tag is still there. There was a an alarm when we left the shop, but the girls at the casier told me, there is nothing. Just an error in the security system. Now I have a real problem. Here in Europe noone can open this system. Help!

Mrs.Helpful said...

The best and safest way to remove it is to burn the side that doesn't have the ink down until you see the in side sivler. Get a knife or sharp object and remove the four small balls on the inside and then it will come right off. Its best not to use pliers because if you use to much force the ink will burst and mess you your clothing. And anonymous why would you put your clothing in the freezer???? And not all door alarms work most do, but there are a few dept stores I know that have them there just for scare. They are hoping that the idea of the ink messing up your clothing is enough reason for you not to steal it.

Kieran said...

So knowing that a magnet pulls said bearings downwards releasing the spring then a good magnet should release these babies!

Anonymous said...

That was the best blog posting I've read for ages...ahem...

And all the more poignant as I too bought a M+S suit and suffered exactly the same latenight issue as dear Mr P.

Of course he's a much lauded techie and I'm merely a business analyst. I pulled the damn thing off and glooped ink on the new jacket. Went to the meeting in the old suit with greenish coloured fingers.

Btw, when the vials crack you dont get ink really all over the place, but enough to ruin the jacket. Mind you, the following saturday M+S replaced it for nothing anyway.

Another thought... it was a washable suit.. just not THAT washable...

Hoover x

Anonymous said...

thanks a bunch!
this was useful! =D

Anonymous said...

I just had to remove one from my daughter's new dress tag. Yes it was paid for, she's 8 months old. I tried freezing it and that doen't work. It won't freeze. I found out why when clipping the pin and breaking one of the ink vials. The ink had a very strong rubbing alcohol smell. It was the blue ink vial that broke. I did use plastic to keep the dress safe but still a little got on it. This was one of the white plastic long and more flat type. Also, it had no ball bearings in it. It had notches in the pin and the pin was pinched in a metal strip through a small slit that was in the top peice. I guess the removing device applies pressure in the correct spots on the metal strip to release the pin. This item was bought at Sears.

Cheers

Anonymous said...

I just posted the comment about the dress. The ink was accually black in the first vial and the second one is red. I decided to mix them to see what happened. Well if you have ever seen the matrix after Neo takes the red pill you'll get a good idea of what didn't happen. The red one smelt of alcohol also and bleanded into a nice dark purple color.

Cheers

Mary said...

So how strong of a magnet are we talking here? Like an N40? This website sells some strong magnets.

http://www.unitednuclear.com/magnets.htm

Would it have to be one of them marked as "WARNING - VERY POWERFUL"? And what shape? Does it have to be a ring magnet in order to effectively move the ball bearings? What size? Aaah.. I seem always be the one to come home to discover the tags still on my clothes. Just buying a heavy duty magnet would be so much easier. ..But which one? I'm not too knowledgable about magnets and security tags! lol

Angela said...

I had the same problem. Mine was the same sort of tag just a different shape. I just took a lighter and melted off the top of the cone shaped side (without the ink), removed the plastic cover from the ball contraption and then the metal one and the spring and balls just fell out. The plastic actually catches on fire so I just let it burn for a minute then pushed back the plastic with a pen and continued to do this until there was a big enough hole to remove the covers from the contraption. Took me about 10 minutes, a lot less time then it would have taken me to return the item to the store. BTW the ink inside was also blue and yellow.

Sam said...

Could you not just rip the tag off, and then use some Vanish to remove the ink off the suit????

Keltyx said...

Would have been interesting to know if the inks would have glowed under UV light.

Anonymous said...

Just today I had the same problem, security tags left on a pair of Levis and a shirt from Sears.
The tags were a little different from the one above. Looking closely I could see which side the ink was, so I used the bag they came in and slipped it under the tag all the way around and ripped it off. The tag on the pants both ink vials broke but none got on the pants. The shirt tag only the yellow broke and a speck got on the garmet tag.

Anonymous said...

In many stores the ink tags do not set off an alarm. Usually just an illusion to make you believe that the security tags actually trigger an alarm, when they really don't.

Anonymous said...

I've had this happen with some various clothing too...I used a woodburning tool (gets VERY hot) to cut off the end opposite the pin and disassemble the unit. Worked great! This was my only option as they were purchased some time ago from places that are no longer around. Neither of my tags had the ink, but the one was a simple pressure system to keep the pin in instead of the balls.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how the thing works. Today I got a new shirt and come home to find the alarm thing was still on it. I put it aside figuring I would pop by later on at the store with my reciept and hae it removed properly. However, my father got ahold of it not knowing about the ink and took his tools to the casing. Once he had it opened I came back in and just as i said - be careful that is ink - the yellow ink popped sideways and blew all over the shirt. Ofcourse now even with the reciept the store said they will not replace it. So I promptly put it in the wash with a lot of stain remover, and I am now awaiting my results - hopefully it comes clean.

Jonah said...

I bought a nice little vest at a thrift store, ink tag still attached, as I discovered when I got home. I found this blog entry and removed the tag without a hitch using an extremely strong computer magnet.
Thanks!

-Jonah

Jonah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

how irresponsible can you be?????showing other CROOKS how to remove security tags. NICE story about the suit by the way!!!! i own a small shop and we had a professional thief removed tags from 10 items over a period of 2 months in our fitting rooms. nmeant we had to close off our fitting rooms...punishing our genuine customers. It disgust me.

Anonymous said...

plain and simple:

you can't steal clothes with ink tags, you can't sneak a magnet into the store or the alarm will go off, clippers would be way too obvious. so like he said. buy your clothes.

Anonymous said...

I recently had a tag left on by debenhams it was ink tag, white and round with a wire securing it to my new dress.not sure if alarm went off or not but managed to remove it. Does any one know if alarm was meant to go of as this puzzled me!!! frightens me to think I could have been mistaken for shoplifter!

Anonymous said...

I too had the same kind of incident, but no ink and i bought 5 different pieces of clothing which still had them on. I just put the security tag in the vice and squeezed untill i heard a click and out comes the pin!! no damaging your clothes with pliers or fussing about magnets

Anonymous said...

Just had this happen to me this evening--Found this article, and comments quite helpful.

Worked in a dept store for a few years. Ink tags=Expensive; So you can find some that are inkless dummies. Also the "why didn't the alarm sound?" question was answered for me by our store security similarly: The cost for the sensor tags add up, and empty casings help the loss prevention dept's budget. The fact that the tag is present is enough to deter casual criminals, frustrate common criminals, and keep repeat criminals in store longer to be captured by video.

Anonymous said...

Get the tag offone way or another if you break the ink tubes. Wash with ink spot Woolite.

Anonymous said...

If the clerks at the stores weren't so dumb, there wouldn't be all these people with tags left on their clothes. I mean working a checkout register isn't rocket science - how hard is it to remember to remove an ink tag.

Anonymous said...

i took a soldering iron and melted the tip until i could see the spring... then i pulled out the spring... twirled the pin a few times and the device let loose. took 5 minutes. Note... i was inspired by the lighter idea.

Anonymous said...

This blog was all very entertaining - except for the fact that it happened to me twice in one week - different stores - which really pisses me off. I hate stupid clerks!!!! Oh, wait, that would be all of them.

Anonymous said...

Best way is with a bench grinder. Less than two minutes and you're done. It doesn't invole open flames or soldering irons (although that is a good idea). Grinding the head of the pin down far enough allows you to just pop the plastic right off. No need to jack around with the ink cartridge ..... until you have it off and away from the clothes, then you can break it open. As for the alarm part, have fun with it. Hide it in a friends wallet and let them go to the stores. Too many places have different tags and it isn't fun wasting a day trying to either go back to a store or finding one that will/can remove it. Then you probably look like a thief, especially since there will be 10 people in line behind you when you try that route.

Anonymous said...

I just took the tag and pulled the cloth back as much as possible, then sawed the pin in half with a hacksaw, making sure as best as possible that the blade wasnt shredding the cloth as well...took 10 min, but I got it off, and no ink spilled...

A.B. Do Well said...

man, I went to TJ Maxx, yesterday and bought a $7 pair of slacks. Was smart enough to saty out until 12:30 in the morning because some friends were Djing at this club. I bought the pants because I knew I wasn't going to have a lot of time to wash my other clothes and didn't feel like Ironing my extremely wrinkled pants from the pile on the floor. (yes I live like a king) So I take the clothes out of my shopping bag, expecting an easy time, and there's this darned sensor tag. I tried to pry it off, I tried to cut it off, didn't work so I opted to leave the house with the sensor still attached to my pants. Now I'm walking around work with a tag on my pants. No access to a lighter or super magnet.
$7 pants bought to simplifiy my life, causing me more trouble than I need. My only option is to go to a store and ask to have it removed, most likely I'll have to wait for the removal just wearing my boxer shorts. Oh joy, I'll just look like an exhibitionist and a crook. But at least I didn't have to wash clothes.

dodged that bullet.

Anonymous said...

I recommend a Dremel tool with a tungsten carbide bit at low RPM. It creates a lot of plastic shavings but it cuts through the plastic easily for precise cuts without the chance of inadvertently applying pressure to the ink capsules. Just don't cut into the ink capsules or catch the bit on the fabric!

Anonymous said...

couldn't you have just slid some sort of tube in, (maybe a tube inside of a writing pen) to take the pressure off of the bearings so you can pull the pin out?

Anonymous said...

I had this issue just now! I got a birthday gift from my sister and unfortunately they left the ink tag on at the bottom of the pair of pant's leg... It's got the ink on one end and on the other it's a flat piece with a pyramid 1/4 from one side... I decided to cut it up.. Scissors worked okay but I found a somewhat scalpal type knife that cut the plastic easy. All that holds the pin is a metal plate with two sides folded into nooks in the pin and a plasticy paper thing to keep that metal hidden. If you cut the whold thing up And reveal the metal it's as simple as bending the metal away from the pin. And voila! The pants are free! Just make sure to hold onto the other end tight while bending as to not pull the pin, just the metal (:

Anonymous said...

To whoever had the lighter idea thank you very much....I melted the plastic until I finally got that stupid tag off my shorts only to find out that the ink had dried ages ago.Still my shorts were safe and I can finally wear them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great post and comments.

I looked it up because I just got back from a thrift shop where I bought an item of clothing that had another store's security ink tag on it. However, mine was of a different type than yours.

Mine was a shallow dome, black plastic on both sides. Both sides looked symmetrical and identical except one had a hole that you could see metal through and the other had the warning printed on it. I wasn't sure which side to attack first (which had the pin anchored to it and which had the ink?). I investigated online further and found this site that has the kind that was on my clothes and other kinds:

http://tinyurl.com/62rze7

The short answer for those who need to know if you have one of these dome-shaped ink tags is that the side to attack is the side that does NOT show the metal through the tiny hole. That metal is the base of the pin so you need to free the other side.

I took a junior hacksaw to the opposite side (the side that had the warning printed on it). I kept hacking at the apex of the dome until I finally got the spring out, then it just fell apart.

Thanks again for a great thread!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant article !
Just happened to me. I Googled this, then took a hacksaw and sawed off the top of the cone. The spring popped out, and the tag separated just like that - took less than 2 minutes :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, the burning idea worked GREAT! I didn't get through all of the comments, but I decided to try burning the thing. I wet down the jeans so they wouldn't burn. It worked like a charm!! Once there was a big enough hole, I could remove the metal fastener. Thank goodness for this site. Why they had to put a security tag on a $22 pair of jeans from Fred Meyer, I don't know...but don't ever take clothes through the self-check unless you're sure there are no tags on them! ; ) Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

its called linesman plires go to the back of the tag snip done the dam things will cut anything

Dan Ecklund, MD said...

The yellow dye is fluorescein, which glows bright yellow-green under UV light (blacklight). Fluorescein is used to dye many things, from cells under a microscope to life boat raft markers, to the yellow anti-freeze in your car radiator. I assume that it is there to dye the hands of shoplifters, so that they can later be identified, even after they THINK they have washed the dye off!

Anonymous said...

I have removed a tag by burning the tag part until the pin was exposed and then releasing it. It is from Macy's. I have put the ink part (yellow and blue inks in large white plastic disc) in the freezer for the last few hours, and it isn't freezing, just going a bit more gloopy, so wouldn't depend on that method.

Anonymous said...

It only took me a total of 40sec to remove the tag with the help of a Dremel with a sanding wheel. All I did was grind off the end of the holder and out drop the spring and the whole pin was released at that point. No risk of even putting too much force on the ink vial.

Sarah said...

oh this is marvelous. i have this shirt from forever 21. i paid for it, got home, and BAM it's got an ink tag on it. it would literally cost me more in gas to go back to the store (it's on the other side of town) than what i paid originally to get the shirt. it's been sitting in its bright yellow bag for months now, nagging me, when a late night thought occurred to me: the solution to my problem could probably be found online. one quick google search later, and voila!

i melted the side with the bump (do not inhale!!!) with a lighter. there was a tiny metal cap underneath which came right off followed by a spring. once the spring was out, the other side fell off.

thanks so much you guys, i feel accomplished. :)

Anonymous said...

i didnt trust myself to cut the bar so i took a little more time and melted the two end of the of where the tubes were and pushed the tubes out the ends where i melted. then i just broke the plastic and pulled the bar out. took me two hours and a every other way to figure that out.

Anonymous said...

The method listed above is very risky as wire cutters are usually bigger towards the handle and can put pressure against the ink. Others recommend burning the smaller side, but I believe that will leave a terrible smell(item and your house) and possibly leave residue on your item. My, adapted, burn method is to heat a pan on high heat. When heated, press the small end on the pan and move back and forth to melt the plastic. This will not produce any smell and when the plastic hardens, it will just fall off of your pan easily. Melt down to the spring, take the spring out, then push the pin through. Easily done without mess, smell, or freezing, in about 5 minutes.

oldfart said...

Thank you for all the information. I ground the nipple end down until the spring popped out and then ground a little more until I could get needle-nosed pliers on the metal ring, I held it upside down and rotated the metal ring a few times as the ball bearnings worked their way down the pin. And off it came! Thanks to all of you for your help.

Anonymous said...

Thank u very much! We live in Germany and the mother-in-law posted us a winter coat from Debenhams (in Coventry) which also still had an ink tag applied. I tried some German shops and they couldn't get it off. We were just about to post it back so you saved us time and money!!! Thank you,
Sabrina
(also did the lighter trick and it worked fine :)

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous!!! The yellow ink shows up under uv light, so even if you wanted to remove the blue ink somehow, your clothes will be stained all over under black lights. It's also a way to prove you were trying theivery at a store...

Anonymous said...

Awesome blog posting! We just came back from the clothes store with a pair of $5 shorts for a 9-month old - for some unknown reason the store clerk left the ink tag on and we want to use the shorts now...so, like the good geek I am we started to search the web...and came across this blog. My husband is now in the basement looking for either a strong magnet (unlikely) or some slim pliers (more likely). He's convinced the police will show up at our door any minute now...hehehehehe!

Anonymous said...

It's pretty simple to remove Sensormatic tags. Ink tags are a bit tough, but regular Sensormatic tags (the one's they use in Macy's for instance) can be removed simply by inserting a small screwdriver bent into the shape of an arc into the hole in the top of the tag. The pressure releases the pin in an instant.

Anonymous said...

So I had a blouse in my closet that I bought on sales with a bunch of other things I didn't really need froma dept store in NY or chicago. two years later, I decided to try it on again and lo! There was an ink tag. I live in Santa Fe so going back to have it removed was not an option. It turned out to have the grooved post secured by thin metal plates, like the back of a pierced earring. I found that out by sawing off the top of the cone shaped piece and then using a screwdriver to release the metal plates holding the pin. It came right off. Took about half an hour but no ink spilled. No damage.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant - thank you so much. After buying a bundle of baby clothes in Boots in the sale last summer for my daughter to wear this summer, (and I do remember them sorting through all 15 items TWICE and STILL the alarms bleeped on the way out but they just waved me through) I have found two items with red ink tags attached. I can't take them back after this length of time without appearing like I've lifted them, so it's really helpful to find some suggestions - thank you :-)

Anonymous said...

first of all i have to say thank you to the owner of this weblog who provided all these awsome information about ink tags - your information are realy helpful ;)
then i have to say all u need to remove the tags is a strong enough magnet which u can find it on ur speakers at home and if u want to buy them search for N45 magnets on the internet which is realy strong althought u dont need a magnet that strong to remove the tags.
anyway all u need is just a magnet and u'll see how easy it is to remove it

Anonymous said...

I just had the same thing happen to me.

A) The Ink is unfreezable. It's temperature stable.

B) Yellow stains Leather, blue stains everything else.

It was a fun personal challenge. I knew I could beat it.

Anonymous said...

This just happened to me a few weeks ago! I bought a nice dress shirt for my senior pictures, but it was buy 1 get 1 for a dollar, so I got the second one. However, they only took the tag off the first one. And the second one is white! I thought about taking it back and asking them to remover it, but I didn't notice for a few weeks, and when I did, the receipt was long gone.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to make up some crazy story, I'll just tell you, when I was young, a friend showed me how to wrap a plastic bag around the pin and fold it over itself. Then hold the ink side with the bag wrapped around and smash the other side with a hammer. One good SMASH and it's off. This is quick but it isn't foolproof because occasionally the ink will leak through the bag, especially if you had to wack it a few times.
But recently we brought a cap home which had an ink tag on it. We live in a remote area so I thought about searching for a method online. I tried burning it with a candle lighter and it worked great. I was worried about smell but it was too windy outside to keep the flame going. It didn't smell and it came off easily. The bearing didn't come out until I used a safety pin and then they popped right out. Very simple. The internet: It's for more than just pirating movies & music.

Anonymous said...

My wife just brought a skirt with a tag- and was quite upset to find a tag on it. I chipped in and thought occurred to me to Google a solution-she gave me that unbelievable look like "you are such geek"! 5 minutes later i had the cone cut off with a serrated kitchen knife-and the tag was safely off in multiple pieces!

Anonymous said...

encountered a security device with dye manufactured by Colortag MIDI.

Notes:
1. dye can be frozen in about 30 minutes in home freezer, but thaws quickly (about 90-120 seconds)

2. to remove:
cut off bump on back side with warning language.

remove spring

I had to press squeeze apparatus together as if installing into garment to get locking mechanism to disengage prior to pulling locking clutch mechanism out of housing with standard pliers. (note that small ball bearings will also come out)

Pin has 4 notches to engage ball bearings through locking mechanism.

caro said...

Thanks a mill.. had a pair of trousers for weeks with an ink tag just melted the back it fell apart no spills. Didn't fancy a day trying to find a shop to remove it!!!

Anonymous said...

any one know if the tags on clothes set off the sensor alarms ????????????????????

Anonymous said...

Regarding the last comment that was posted, "any one know if the tags on clothes set off the sensor alarms ???????????????????" Yes, I can tell you that most alarms in stores with those security poles near the entrance of the store will be set off by ink tags. I recently purchased a coat from a store and when I got home I noticed that they had forgotten to remove the ink tag. I called the store and they advised me to go the the local mall, since I had purchased the coat out of town, and ask if they could remove the device. I went to approx six different retail stores and none of them had the same ink tag. Almost every stores security alarm went off as I entered or exited the store.

Mel said...

Ok, so my daughter and I went shopping at the mall got some cute shirts, a few days later she notices one of those ink security tags attached to her new shirt! I no longer had the receipt and was very annoyed that now she was not able to wear her new cute shirt :( looked online on google how to remove security tags, tryed the lighter method. Lighted the cone shaped side, had to use a knife to seperate the 2 peices both came unaatched with only a light ink stain, not to bad and now she can wear her shirt to school tomorro. YAY! do not try yanking the tag off by yourself, we did this and there is a tiny hole in top, not bad but its there because of this.

Radu said...

Google is deffinetly the grandfather of all knowledge.
The easiest way is to cut of the bump with either a knife or a saw, pop the spring, put the tag with the bump facing down and tap on the other side, where the base of the pin is and it will release.
If you care enough, the explanation can be found in the pictures above.
The pliers cutting the pin - thing is risky because you cannot feel how much power you apply to the tag and accidentaly break the glass. And if you have pliers, you also have a saw. Use that.
Burning the bump on the tag might be a solution, but be carefull, high temperature also breaks glass and there is also a risk of molten plastic falling on your clothes.
It's not worth the risc when there is simpler solution.
And the magnet... it's fun if you have one.

Anonymous said...

To solve this problem is easy...make a tag that DOES set off an alarm. That way people that actually purchase their garments won't leave the store with the tags on, and they won't have to waste time driving back to the store when a clerk neglects to do his/her job.

Anonymous said...

after finding an ink tag on a garment, I took it back to the store.
the managers first response was "we don't sell clothes with ink tags". The store does NOT have a removal tool and suggested I take it to a department store to try and find someone to remove it for me.
People are getting so much less competent. If anything unexpected happens, they cannot solve the simplest problems.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to buy a skirt from an outlet store, but they did not have the correct machine to remove the ink tag. I bought the skirt anyway thinking I could take it to the retail store and ask them to remove it. After calling many stores I found that ink tags aren't used much in my area. I was bummed out, the skirt was so cute and there was only one at the store- what to do? As a last resort I googled it-After using the pan melting method, I pulled out the spring, and a couple minutes later- big mama is wearing her skirt! Yay!

Anonymous said...

This id definately not the way to do it. You were real lucky. Best way is to cut the top nipple off with a dremel. out pops the spring and ball bearings. takes less than 1 minute. also best to use grease proof paper with a cut that slips under the defice and then tape it together - just in case.

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TJ said...

OK EVERYBODY,,, U GUYS ARE ALL NOVICES. ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS TAKE A LIGHTER TO THE SIDE OPPOSITE OF THE INK PACK. HEAT IT UP AND IT WILL MELT, REMOVE SPRING AND THE CAP FALLS RIGHT OFF. THANKS AND YOUR WELCOME. ONE CAVEAT: IT STINKS LIKE HELL!!

The Countess Of Brighton and Hackney said...

I don't know where to buy strong magnets and I have a function to attend tomorrow where I need to look HOT......can you pop over to my house and remove the tag....though it isn't and ink one, but I can tell you are an expert!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this, because i was able to see how they were built i was able to remove mine, i did some shopping in london now that i am back home i didnt want to travell all the way back down there, luckily the one i had was a little more basic than the one you did, i just simply broke through the front of the case and destroyed the end of the pin that would trigger the ink! THANK YOU!

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Anonymous said...

just removed a double dome type tag by cutting a square about 1cm across at the top of the dome, the opposite side from the side where a small hole is visible. The inners came out with a bit of jiggling but it just fell apart. 5min job, very easy

Albert said...

Very helpful... thanks for the info. Bought a jacket in Calgary and after flying home to Toronto discovered that it still had the tag on.

After reading I cut the top of the nipple off with my rotary tool, extracted the bearings, and saved myself a lot of grief.

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LOL, WOW!! Cleverly written, interesting and so enticing that it kept me wanting to read more instead of skipping to another blog for my answer. LOVE IT!!

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Anonymous said...

Surely freezing the vials would cause them to shatter?

Liquids expand when frozen?

doosh3000 said...

That's awesome iv never seen a tag like this.

I recently visited a website that shows you how to remove security tags from clothes using a sensormatic hook but i guess a good old pair of pliers will do the trick!

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Anonymous said...

i found taking 2 pleir of pliereans pick at the round the ink will never break but DONT FORGRT to get of the pieces cause the will beep and always go with a look out to district the worker much love and happy hunting brandy brandy0379@hotmail.om if you have question good luck in your plunder

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for your help, like you and most of the others who had the same problem, taking the item back to the store just wasn't an option! I ended up cutting off the dome end until I found the inner workings, after that it was just a matter of taking out the spring, small balls, and metal pieces then sliding it right off. I just wish I had found a sharper knife so it wouldn't have taken as long. Thanks!

tight jeans said...

oh my god i can't believe all you people think this is easy!

i got back home late at night with new jeans for work tomorrow.. stupid bloody girl. arrrr

jeans had colortag midi

went for the melting with lighter method.

took ages, stank, almost burnt my hair. did burn jeans a bit including seam stitching.

i had to burn the entire nipple away. i think i ended up melting some further down the metal pin!

in the end i took to secatares and not pliers but those things that look like pliers without the sharp blades. cos this is all i have in the house.

it was painful, i broke two nails and lucky i didn't cut off a finger.. in the end i did remove the ink side without breaking the vial.. but i did damage the jeans a little. you can see from the outside. .so as long as i didn't weaken that part and it starts a hole it should be ok..

but i think of myself as a seasoned veteran at attempting this kind of things and pretty skilled usually.. and i found this really painful and even though it would have been a huge hassle to go back to the store i would do that if faced with this situation again.

cano said...

the ball things arent magnetized its the thing that holds them down that is magnetized

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Derek Smith said...

I never though removing security tag is so easy. this is a very useful article

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Kate said...

I'm so incredibly grateful that curiosity made you take apart the half of the tag that didn't contain the ink! I got a jacket for Christmas from a relative, but they got it from a local store near where they live, in upstate NY, and I'm in Ohio. Even if they'd included the receipt (which they didn't), it wouldn't have done me a lick of good! So I had to settle for figuring this out myself.

I didn't have enough space between the two halves when I had to do the same thing today, so seeing what to expect was the most helpful thing I've come across!

I also didn't have a knife sharp enough (or any other tools worth trying to use instead) to cut through the several layers of hard plastic I came across, so I resorted to a rather crude and time-consuming, but incredibly effective, method: I gripped a large nail between a set of needle-nose pliers, and held it over a candle until it was sufficiently hot enough to melt plastic. Punctured a hole, widened it, and kept digging away, very slowly, until I'd managed to uncover the pin and the small casing that held the ball bearings. Removed the casing from the top, over the pin, the balls popped out, and the entire thing slid apart!

Seriously, it was amazing. All in all, because I was mostly guessing and there was a lot of wait time while the nail would reheat over the candle, it took me maybe an hour and a half, two hours to complete.

tl;dr-- your thoroughness in documenting this escapade saved my ass, and thank you. ^^

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Anonymous said...

Bought a pair of pants from Fashion Bug a week ago. Got home only to find that the clerk forgot to remove the inktag! I was seriously pissed. I only get new clothes once a year and when I do, I want to wear them, NOW. So, anyway, after doing a little research, I decided to try the plastic bag method. It worked like a charm! This is how I did it:
1. Get a plastic grocery bag. Not a ziploc. I'm talking about the very very thin plastic grocery bags. The kind that has to be double bagged so your heavier items don't rip through.
2. Wrap as much of the bag around and under the side of your inktag that holds the ink, as you can. Wrap it around as many times as possible.
3. Get some pliers and ply the sides apart.
4. Voila', you have some unstained clothes! If you do it correctly.

Not a DROP of ink got onto my jeans. AND, this was a 3 ink cartridge deal. Only one of them broke. They were all 3 blue ink. Much thinner than the original posts blue ink. Thin enough that if I had gotten some onto my pants, it wouldn't have mattered because it wouldn't have shown. Thin enough that I'm convinced that it would wash off quite easily.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and it only took me 3 minutes once I started. ;)

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winnybar said...

I had a gray plastic tag on my Sears shoes. They have a groove in the counter that accepts the head. Then they pull up on the long side. There are lights in the gizmo so that must be a magnet. I think a cutting pliers would make short work of it though, just cut the pin.

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Anonymous said...

I used the burn the cap method and it worked. You have to be careful cause the plastic catches fire. I bought a shirt in a town 2 hours away from home and didn't realize the ink tag was there till I got home. I was too far to drive with gas prices at $3.50 a gallon. Thanks for the info

Anonymous said...

I used the burn the cap method and it worked. You have to be careful cause the plastic catches fire. I bought a shirt in a town 2 hours away from home and didn't realize the ink tag was there till I got home. I was too far to drive with gas prices at $3.50 a gallon. Thanks for the info

Anonymous said...

I used the burn the cap method and it worked. You have to be careful cause the plastic catches fire. I bought a shirt in a town 2 hours away from home and didn't realize the ink tag was there till I got home. I was too far to drive with gas prices at $3.50 a gallon. Thanks for the info

Anonymous said...

I used the burn the cap method and it worked. You have to be careful cause the plastic catches fire. I bought a shirt in a town 2 hours away from home and didn't realize the ink tag was there till I got home. I was too far to drive with gas prices at $3.50 a gallon. Thanks for the info

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Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot i bought a shirt yesterday and the lady forgot to remove the tag so i saw it when i got home. I was just able to remove it myself with pliers. props to you.

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Pablo said...

Thanks for the advice. Just went through a similar situation. Bought a pair of badminton shoes in a specialized shop an hour away from home, just to realize the color tag was on them when I arrived home. Got a pair of wire cutters and pliers and hacked through the pin cap. In my case cutting the pin was not an option as the fit was so tight that I would have released the ink. Once I got rid of the cap, cutting the pin was a piece of cake.

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Will Patton said...

Well, I bought a new pair of levis, and the cashier had left a cone shaped security tag on it, luckily, i had the internet, and seached for it and found different posts saying how to remove different type of ink tags, I had a white cone shaped "Smart Ink"
and decided to try putting a large molybedium magnet from a shake charge flash light on both sides, one time on one side, the next on another, when I put it on the end of the cone shaped end, and tried to pull the magnet off, it came right off!! and I had my new pair of jeans!!

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I bought a sweater at Sears right before Christmas and then I wanted to wear it and took it out of the bag and didn't realize the tag was still on it until it was too late to go back to the store. I don't go to that store often and when I do happen to be in the area I don't have the sweater on me because I keep forgetting about it until I want to wear it. It is annoying. The one I have has red ink. Tag is still on. I still have to go bring it in. Made sure I have the receipt because I can imagine they wouldn't believe it was purchased but think I stole it and realized I was screwed and came back and just said they forgot to remove it..

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