Too Good to Be True Online Deals May Be Stolen Property

Have you have ever scrolled through eBay, or a similar auction site, looking for bargains? With nearly 160 million active user accounts on eBay alone, chances are pretty good that you or someone in your family checks out available deals at least occasionally. Online commerce has created an entirely new opportunity for bargain-hunters, but authorities have issued warning that a large number of auction site deals may, in fact, involve stolen property.

A report issued by the National Retail Federation estimates that as many as one-third of auction and classified site listings for items claiming to be “new in box” or “new with tags” are merchandise that has been stolen from retail stores or warehouses. Such schemes often involve organized retail theft rings, such as the multi-million dollar operation run by four Chicago residents arrested in 2013 for a nationwide string of shoplifting. While the main item of choice for that particular group was computer hard drives, theft rings may focus on stealing clothing, purses, jewelry, or any other items that can be quickly converted to cash through an intermediary known as a “fence.”

While more complex operations may allow the fence to then distribute the merchandise for a profit, smaller-scale thieves often try to fence stolen property online on their own. Loss prevention executives around the country have observed a marked increase in “e-fencing” in recent years. Some thieves have been able to make substantial money in the process, including an Australian university student who was arrested last week with more than $11,000 in merchandise in her dorm, after already netting the same amount in eBay sales.

Officials from eBay have indicated that the online site is committed to combating fraudulent activity and the sale of stolen property through its listings. Retailers and law enforcement agencies, as well, continue to try to track down retail thieves for both legal and commercial purposes. Shoplifters, of course, can face criminal charges, but every stolen item slowly but surely contributes to rising retail prices and necessary markup to compensate for the loss.

If you have been accused of retail theft or buying or selling stolen property, you need an attorney who is dedicated to helping you protect your rights. Contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense lawyer today at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba. We will review your case and help you find a favorable resolution, no matter what the charges against you may be. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free consultation.

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