Uh-oh, now what?

The purpose of this page is informational and in no way condones theft. This page exists, because it does happen where you might get home only to discover one of these devices attached to your purchase.

My fiancee and I went to a store to buy our 3 month old baby girl Jayden a dress for Christmas. Low and behold, when we got home, there was one of those security tags clipped to it. I jumped on the computer and googled around a bit to find out if anyone had taken one of these apart. About the only thing I found was someone who was asking if anyone had removed one before. They talked about it possibly containing an encapsulated dye that would burst on the clothing if it was removed without the proper tool. One of the responses they got was to put the article in the freezer which would freeze the dye and mitigate the possibility of the dye capsule breaking.

At this point I decided it would be easier to try and remove the tag than to drive all the way back into town and deal with the hassle of trying to prove I'd actually bought the dress and had made it out of the store without the alarm going off. A quick trip to Home Depot and I picked up a couple of cutting discs for my Dremel that I'd need.

This particular security device is an SenTech UltraTag® which works with the Sensormatic UltraMax® systems.

  • 3.25" x 1.1" at .416oz
  • 8.2MHz or 9.5MHz

Well, here's the dress before I began. PICT0440.JPG, 43 kB
PICT0438.JPG, 43 kB The next problem was I needed to clean my workbench.

Not knowing if the device contained dye or not, I decided not to take any chances. Mind you, I hadn't even told Rachel, my fiancee, that there might be dye in there. I figured, why worry her pretty little head about it. Not to mention, she probably wouldn't have even let me attempt it.

I decided to tape it away from the dress (gotta love duct tape)

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PICT0444.JPG, 43 kB Next I bagged the dress and taped all the openings shut. I figured latex gloves wouldn't hurt either because I've heard that dye is pretty nasty stuff when it comes to washing it off.
PICT0446.JPG, 43 kB
I began cutting through the end away from the garmet and stopped to peek around the inside once I saw open space inside. Sorry It's blurry. Wasn't paying attention. PICT0447.JPG, 43 kB
PICT0449.JPG, 43 kB After determining that I had enough room to cut around a little square thing I saw inside, I was able to open it up a bit to see what the dye packet looked like.
I was getting excited now. Let's cut out some more and take a look. PICT0450.JPG, 43 kB
PICT0451.JPG, 43 kB Major letdown. It wasn't a dye packet at all, but rather the resonance strips that set the store sensors off. Well, let's pull it out.
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Ok, now that I cleared out the long section, there was a little funky shaped area opposite where the pin goes in. This must be where the dye is. I decided to heat up the needle on a hypodermic syringe (I have these in my tackle box to float worms I swear!!!) and poke it through to see what was inside. PICT0454.JPG, 43 kB
PICT0455.JPG, 43 kB I didn't get anything with the first poke, so I made a second hole closer to the base.
Nothing... Well, what the heck, let's poke all the way through. PICT0457.JPG, 43 kB
PICT0458.JPG, 43 kB Hmmmm. Still nothing.. Let's chop the top off.
Looks good so far. I'll chop it off at the base. The flashlight wasn't much help. You can see in the second picture where the base of the button's post is visible. Closer inspection reveals that it works similar to an earring where there is a depression ring around the post which provides a spot that the fingers latch into holding the post secure. PICT0459.JPG, 43 kB
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PICT0461.JPG, 43 kB Ok... Looks like I can cut all the way around again.
Not looking good. I still don't see a dye pack anywhere. I cut the post off coming through the clip so I could seperate it from the clothing next.

You'll notice that the black plate that latches to the post is flexed. I believe that when the device is put in the "official" tool to remove it, it places enough pressure against the flex to open the jaws of the plate, pulling the teeth out of the depression ring and allowing it to slip out.

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PICT0464.JPG, 43 kB Ok, here's the post side that goes through the clothes to attach to the device. Sorry. It's blurry.
Here's all the pieces together. What a letdown!!!! No dye pack anywhere in sight! PICT0465.JPG, 43 kB
PICT0466.JPG, 43 kB
PICT0467.JPG, 43 kB And finally, the dress sans the security device...

Well... So much for caution. I could have saved myself a bunch of time just cutting through the post or drilling the post end out and pulling the cap off. But what the heck... It was fun anyways. One of the bits I picked up for my Dremel had a 58KHz acousto-magnetic security tag. We've all seen them, but since I was in the mood to tear things apart, here's what this one looks like.

By the way, if you want to know how these work, here's a basic article which also covers "swept" systems (the spiral looking tags)

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Next... One of those new fangled caps that go on bottles of alcohol to stop people from opening them and drinking while they shop! I got this one at a party when someone had abandoned a bottle of Tequilla on a table. I just gotta figure out where I stuck it as I've had it for a few months.
PICT0544.JPG, 16 kB Aha!! Found it! <grin> I picked up the bottle that had been left on a table, presumably because the person who bought it thought they wouldn't be able to get it off and decided to move on to some open bottle elsewhere. After examining it for a bit, I wondered how hard it'd be to get off. Oddly enough... Surprisingly easy. I just pulled up on it, and it popped right off. Not much of a security device.
Taking a quick look it was pretty easy to see how the locking mechanism worked. Basically it's a compression lock which forces a ring of fingers to clasp down under the cap. Putting a four pronged key into the top and twisting drops the retaining ring (which squeezes the fingers together) and allows it to slip off. PICT0545.JPG, 12 kB
PICT0546.JPG, 15 kB Just applying a bit of pressure allowed the retaining ring to pop off.
Dremel time!!! I wanted to see if my ideas about how it worked were correct, so I cut out the top where the key is inserted. PICT0548.JPG, 17 kB
PICT0549.JPG, 14 kB I was a bit surprised to find a coil in there. I figured it would have been a similar electromagnetic mechanism as previously shown. It's still electromagnetic, but altogether different in design.
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I was kind of disappointed in the simplicity, so I flipped it over to see what else we might find. PICT0553.JPG, 14 kB
PICT0554.JPG, 12 kB A bit of fiddling got the compression fingers to pop out.
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Uhmmmmm... Nothing to see here folks. It was uniformly boring, simple, and apparently not too great as whoever bought the bottle walked right out of the store with it. Supposedly the coil is non-deactivatable which does make it a bit different than the other devices above. PICT0559.JPG, 13 kB
PICT0560.JPG, 14 kB Into the dismantled security devices it goes. I felt that this was such a letdown that I had to find something interesting to show for it, so here is a video from the manufacturer, albiet with a slightly newer line of products. Don't forget to look at their ink tag. I want one of those! I think dremeling through the clip would work for this one too. The majority of Alpha's tags appear to be wholy magnetic, so a magnet from an old hard drive would probably work on those. Their DVD box looks interesting, but a Dremel would take care of this pretty easy.
Well, until next time I end up bringing home another stray puppy. See you all later.