Retail executives at companies like Target and Walmart are pointing to a spike in shoplifting.
Experts say organized crime deserves much of the blame.
Many are selling stolen goods on online platforms to unwitting consumers.

Executives at retailers like Target and Walmart are raising alarms about shoplifting in their stores — and you may have unknowingly bought one of these items when you shopped online.

That’s because criminal enterprises are selling over $500 billion in stolen or counterfeit products through online marketplaces like Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace across the globe each year, the Prosecutors Alliance of California, an advocacy organization that promotes criminal justice reforms, estimated in 2022.

If true, this would mean illicit goods account for up to 10% of the total e-commerce market.

Couple a spike in shoplifted items with the rise of online shopping in recent years, and it’s possible you could be one of these unwitting customers. Given the sellers often appear legitimate — and the goods are often sold at discounted prices — many consumers are happy to do business. 

Rather than being driven by a surge of one-off thieves, experts say organized criminal organizations are largely to blame, and are hurting not only the businesses they steal from, but the legitimate online sellers they’re competing with.

“This is a professional criminal,” Jason Brewer, the spokesperson for the Buy Safe America Coalition, a lobby group for the retail industry, previously told Insider. “They’re not looking to steal food for dinner, or something they need because they can’t afford it. They are stealing specific items that they know they can resell online.”

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Insider reached out to Amazon, eBay, Craigslist and Meta for comment. Spokespeople from both eBay and Amazon said the platforms do not allow sellers to list stolen goods and that they work with law enforcement to identify this activity.

A Meta spokesperson said Facebook Marketplace prohibits the sale of stolen items and has “specialized teams that work with law enforcement to respond to legal requests.” 

“We enforce our commerce policies (including reviewing complaints and reports against sellers and reports of stolen goods) through our commerce review system,” they added. “While this review is largely automated, we rely on our teams to build and train these systems, and in some cases, to manually review listings.”

Craigslist did not respond to Insider’s request for comment. 

Retailers say shoplifting is on the rise

In July, a Tulsa woman pleaded guilty to her role as the leader of a 29-person retail theft organization. The group targeted stores that included Walmart, Costco, and Walgreens and sold items through sites like Amazon and eBay, netting $4.5 million in sales.

This e-fencing — the selling of stolen goods online — is not a new phenomenon. Organized retail theft increased nearly 60% between 2015 and 2020, the National Retail Federation found in a 2020 survey, costing retailers an average of over …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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