Online marketplaces allowing criminals to smash-and-grab: ‘It’s put the problem of stolen goods on steroids’
Online marketplaces have created a black market business model for thieves, leading to an increase in burglary which has been on the rise in the United States in recent months and years, retail industry executives have said. at FOX Business.
Ben Dugan, the head of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, estimates that retail theft is now responsible for $68 billion in annual losses, a number that has increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s really a growing problem and COVID was kind of the tipping point,” Dugan told FOX Business.
“During COVID, everyone is shopping online. So that’s created this huge new demand, or surge in demand, that’s fueling all this extra crime to make this product available for resale online.”
More than half of retailers nationwide, 57%, said there has been more organized crime in retail since the start of the pandemic, according to a survey conducted last year by the National Retail Federation.
The forces that led to the rise in theft were put in place about a decade ago, according to Jason Brewer, executive vice president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
“The difference between now and 10 years ago is the rise of online marketplaces and the ease of selling stolen goods anonymously,” Brewer told FOX Business.
“It put the problem of stolen goods on steroids and unfortunately created a business model for some criminals to steal and resell stolen goods very quickly and anonymously.”
The upsurge in retail theft has prompted some law enforcement agencies to convene task forces and operations targeting the criminals responsible.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced last month the arrest and conviction of five people who stole more than $8 million worth of merchandise from retailers across California.
“The coordinated criminal activity that we have seen in retail stores and online through the resale of stolen goods is not shoplifting or petty crime, it is organized crime, and it will take an organized strategy to put an end to it”, bonta said last month.
Retail industry leaders have said the problem won’t go away until online marketplaces increase the security and transparency of peer-to-peer transactions.
“Today there really is no limit to what can be sold,” Brewer said. “You’re hiding behind a platform, probably using a fake name, fake business information. And unfortunately, platforms like Facebook do very little to identify who these individuals are.”
The Integrity, Notice, and Fairness in Online Retail Markets for Consumers Act (INFORM Act) was introduced in both houses of Congress with bipartisan cosponsors.
The bill would require online platforms to verify the identity of high-volume third-party sellers and require sellers to provide contact information in advance.
Facebook declined to comment on the INFORM ACT, but told FOX Business that it prohibits the sale of stolen goods on Facebook Marketplace.
“We strongly support legislative efforts to prevent malicious actors from harming consumers, including increasing penalties against online criminals and providing more resources to law enforcement,” amazon said.
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Last month, 20 CEOs from multiple industries sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to pass the INFORM Act, writing that “criminal networks and unscrupulous corporations have exploited a system that protects their anonymity.”