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6 Telltale Signs: How to Spot Tampering with Plastic Security Seals



In the intricate tapestry of supply chain management, the integrity of security seals is a thread that holds together the fabric of security and trust. For purchasing managers and operations directors, the responsibility of ensuring this integrity is paramount. Security seals, especially plastic security seals, are silent guardians of your goods, but when tampered with, they can unravel the safety and security of your entire operation. This post delves into the critical signs of seal tampering, empowering you to safeguard your operations effectively.

Understanding Plastic Security Seals

Plastic security seals are the unsung heroes in the world of logistics. Predominantly used for securing shipments, these seals are made from various materials, including metal and high-density plastics, designed to withstand a range of environmental and handling challenges. Their simplicity belies their importance - a breach here could spell disaster.

The Importance of Seal Integrity

Imagine a scenario where a compromised seal leads to the loss of valuable cargo. The repercussions extend beyond financial loss; they strike at the heart of your company's reputation and safety standards. Instances abound in the logistics world where seal tampering has led to significant security breaches, making vigilance non-negotiable.

Telltale Sign 1: Check that the seal locks when first applying the seal.

Tampering can occur before the seal is even locked. If seals are not stored securely, employees can access the seals and tamper with the locking components. 

The employee applying the seal must ensure it is locked when first applied. This can be done by examining the seal to ensure the locking chamber is intact. After the seal appears to be secured, the employee should pull on the seal with enough force to ensure the seal does not pull apart and the locking chamber is functioning correctly.

Telltale Sign 2: Verify you received the correct seal.

Seals are not just physical barriers; they are records in themselves. When the seal arrives at the destination, the person responsible for inspecting the seal needs to verify the seal is the correct style of seal, that it is the correct color, and that the information printed is correct. Not only that the information is correct but if your seals are typically Hot Stamped in White and now they are laser etched in black then that is a strong indicator something is wrong. Discrepancies between the seal numbers logged in your records and those on the actual seals are glaring red flags. This mismatch could indicate that the original seal was removed and replaced with a counterfeit.

Telltale Sign 3: Visible Damage or Alteration.

  1. Cuts or Resealing: Look for any signs of cutting, which may suggest an attempt to access the contents. This is particularly important for adjustable seals.  If adjustable seals are not cinched tight when they are first applied there is the opportunity to cut and reseal them.  If you inspect the tip of the seal you can easily tell if it was cut or if it is the original tip.  Similarly, signs of resealing could indicate that the seal was tampered with and then replaced.
  2. Physical Manipulation: Unusual bends or breaks in the seal can be a clear giveaway of tampering.


Telltale Sign 4: Evidence of Chemical Tampering

Chemical tampering is a subtle yet insidious method of compromising seals. Be on the lookout for:

  1. Discoloration: A change in the color of the seal could indicate chemical interference.
  2. Residue: Unusual residue on or around the seal is a potential sign of chemical tampering.

Telltale Sign 5: Unusual Wear or Weathering

The story of a seal is often told through its wear and tear. Excessive or unusual wear could be a testament to tampering attempts, distinguished from normal weathering by its pattern and extent.

Telltale Sign 6: Compromised Tamper-Evident Features

Many modern seals come with tamper-evident features. A compromised feature, which might include broken barriers or altered indicators, is a clear sign that the seal's sanctity has been breached.

Best Practices in Security Seal Management

  1. Proper Storage and Handling: Ensure seals are stored in a controlled environment.
  2. Regular Training: Educate your staff on the importance of seal integrity and the methods of inspecting seals.
  3. Routine Audits: Regularly audit your sealing practices to ensure compliance with industry standards.


As a purchasing manager or operations director, the responsibility of maintaining the unbroken chain of security through effective seal management is yours. It requires vigilance, knowledge, and a proactive approach. Regularly revisiting and updating your sealing procedures is not just a good practice; it's an imperative for the safety and reputation of your business. Remember, a security seal is not just a piece of plastic or metal; it's the custodian of your goods' security.

Stay informed, stay vigilant, and ensure that your seals remain unbroken guardians of your goods.