U.S. Retailers And Police Ask Online Sellers To Help Fight Theft

The retail industry claims it loses $30 billion a year from organized retail crime—rings of professional shoplifters who sell their goods at flea markets, pawn shops, and online through auction sites like eBay—so they’re asking online sellers to help by posting serial numbers of products and by providing more information on high-volume sellers. Right now all they can do is ask, but there are politicians in Washington who are making noises about pursuing a legislative solution.

The main issue is how much (or little) online retailers cooperate with loss-prevention investigators at brick and mortar stores. Currently, they don’t: they provide information on sellers to law enforcement authorities, but not to corporate investigators.

“We need to take a new approach,” said Brad Brekke, vice president for assets protection at Target Corp. “Internet auction sites could make simple changes, making high-volume sellers identify themselves and provide unique product identities.”

Robert Chesnut, senior vice president of rules, trust and safety at eBay Inc, said it was reasonable “to think about what we could do about high-volume sellers.” But he said sellers are generally nervous about posting their names, addresses and telephone numbers on product listings.

“U.S. retailers want online sellers to fight theft” [Reuters]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. ChrisC1234 says:

    Hmm… so are these the same retailers that will just let you walk out the door with un-purchased goods without even an attempt of apprehension? It sounds like they’re wanting someone else to do their job for them.

  2. Shadowfire says:

    Well, being that a corporate LP employee is not a law enforcement officer, I’d question what business they have knowing what I’m selling, where I got it, and where I live.

  3. lotides says:

    Corporations have absolutely zero rights to police other corporations. It’s their own problem. If they would actually have people working on the floor it would stop a large percentage of theft. Imagine if you went to Target and they had an employee who said something like “can I help you find anything?”. Maybe I just remember older days and smaller profits.

  4. BigNutty says:

    When my credit card was used at Google AdWords by someone who got my information somehow, Google could care less about helping me find the identity of the person or would give me more information about the transaction.

    If fact, they refused to credit back my credit card even after they agreed it was an unauthorized charge even though I reported it on the same day it occurred. They insisted I report it as a dispute with my credit card company.

    I wanted as much information as possible to give to the police who have very little time to follow up on this type of crime.

    What do they care? They still have my money as it takes about 60 days for my money to be credited back to my account.

    Does big business really think consumers are going to help them with their loss problem? Ebay is full of fraud and I doubt they care about trying to stop their sellers from auctioning off anything, whether stolen or not.

  5. djyox says:

    Whats in it for the online sellers? Why should they take the time and manpower required to do this? Why is it their business? I think online sellers are doing the right thing by telling other retailers to piss off and only answering questions by law enforcement. I think that realworld retailers should pay for this info to be posted if they want it. If I was an online seller, I know thats the only way I’d do it, unless there was a law/rule that said I had to do so.

  6. bohemian says:

    So they are assuming all online sellers are criminals until they prove themselves innocent? Wankers.

  7. edrebber says:

    If the merchanidse is stolen, the seller can alter the serial number. This will create a new demand for devices that to alter serial numbers.

  8. So, they wait months to tell people when credit card information has been stolen, can’t or won’t say exactly who’s information has been stolen, and expect us to help them with their loss prevention.


    I’m sure anybody that’s gotten their credit card information stolen after going to a retailer is going to be so eager to help out.

  9. Shadowfire says:

    @BigNutty: Nothing to do with it. They won’t credit your card because they don’t want to credit it, and then find that you’ve also charged back the amount. In the end, they’re out the money twice, and have to fight with your CC company to get payment returned. Also, it’s not their responsibility to talk to you, and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal. They don’t know who the hell you are, and for all they know, you could be in the process of trying to steal someone’s identity.

    Dealing with your CC company makes the most sense.

  10. latemodel says:

    Why would including the serial number be a problem, unless theyre selling stolen merchandise? The big volume online sellers know their merchandise is stolen. And, they are not paying all their income tax liability. The feds already get all the transaction info from the CC companies and PayPal is next. The sellers better have receipts for all that merchandise or the whole amount is taxable.

  11. SaraAB87 says:

    The Target I go to does have floor employees, but they never seem to do anything other than walk around and straighten and stuff. They don’t go up to people to help them and if you ask them a question they are rather crass about it.

  12. StevieD says:

    The manufacturer’s invoices for my major product lines have been itemized with SN of the goods that I purchase for a number of years.

    It makes sense, and over the years our industry has busted a few freight, warehouse and related thiefts through aggressive use of SN’s.

    But this level of loss prevention costs money. Sometimes a lot of $. It might make sense tracking a $80K widget, but as much as I am supportive of any Loss Prevention measures, tracking SN’s on $8 gidgets just doesn’t make much sense.

  13. Caroofikus says:

    Nervous about releasing their email addresses or names or phone numbers? I welcome everyone who purchases from me on eBay to call me and even send out my full list of contact information.