Organized retail crime—ORC, for short—affected 97% of the 67 American retailers surveyed by the National Retail Federation in 2015, and four out of five of them said that it’s getting worse. In increasingly organized ways, fleets of “boosters” (industry slang for shoplifters) target an area and pluck shops dry of crucial yet pricy items—popular goods include baby formula, allergy medicine, and pregnancy tests. Then, goods are listed for sale online on sites like eBay and Craigslist, and on Facebook groups–or simply returned to the retailers they were stolen from, a category of hoodwinking called “return fraud.”
It doesn’t just affect retailers, it affects you and me.
In October, three major US government bodies issued a warning about counterfeit contact lenses sold online, which hosted dangerous bacteria and, in some cases, had “lead-based materials that leach directly into the eye.” Prince might have died from counterfeit medicine. Last year, officials in Los Angeles raided a fake detergent operation that sold five-gallon buckets of counterfeit Tide to people online.
Buying these items does more than deliver fake products to our doorsteps. It also encourages retail gangs to steal genuine products out of entire communities, putting sick and low-income individuals who need them at risk.