According to the National Retail Federation's 2008 Organized Retail Crime Survey, 68 percent of retailers were able to identify stolen goods that dealers were eFencing [source: National Retail Federation]. Although the problem seems to be on the rise, some are suggesting more efficient ways to deal with the theft and fraud online.
Some believe that the auction sites should be providing more protection and doing more to help against eFencing. Brad Brekke, for instance, vice president of assets protection for Target Corp., has suggested something similar to the identification system on eBay Motors: All vehicles listed for sale on eBay Motors must post a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that is verified through the company Carfax. This practice, according to Brekke, has completely put an end to the sale of stolen cars on eBay, and a similar system could do the same for stolen iPods and headphones [source: Wholesale Central].
Others think the retail stores themselves need to put more security in place in order to deter customers or employees from shoplifting. More security cameras and metal detectors, for instance, could significantly cut down on loss [source: Investor Trip].
Some of the most common goods stolen and sold online include GPS devices, rechargeable batteries, shavers, headphones, vacuums and over-the-counter medicines. These are items that people buy nearly everyday off of auction sites -- how is it possible to tell if they're part of a fence or not?
There are several indicators to look for when investigating something up for auction on a site like eBay. Sellers offering large quantities of one product over several time periods are typically suspect. It could mean the seller's part of a larger ring of organized crime and has received a bulk of stolen goods from someone else. Merchandise that's still factory sealed is also potentially part of an online fence, as retailers believe that almost 40 percent of "new in box" merchandise sold online is stolen [source: National Retail Federation]. Sellers looking to sell brand-new, stolen merchandise as quickly as possible don't expect people to care whether or not something is shrink-wrapped; in fact, some buyers might find it more attractive, since they know their item isn't used.
For lots more information on online auctions, the Internet and crime, take a chance below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- Colapinto, John. "Annals of retail: stop, thief!" The New Yorker. Sept. 1, 2008. (Sept. 5, 2008) http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/09/01/080901fa_fact_colapinto
- Encyclopedia Britannica Online. "Moll Cutpurse." 2008. (Sept. 5, 2008) http://original.britannica.com/eb/article-9053257/Moll-Cutpurse
- National Retail Federation. "Organized retail crime in U.S. rises 6%, fueled in part by Internet." (Sept. 12, 2008) http://www.marketingcharts.com/direct/organized-retail-crime-in-us-rises-6-fueled- in-part-by-internet-4939/nrf-organized-retail-crime-merchandise-identified-fence-locationjpg/
- NBC 10 News. "eFencing and eBay." Jan. 24, 2007. (Sept. 5, 2008) http://www.nbc10.com/newsarchive/10834898/detail.html
- Online Etymology Dictionary. "Fence (n.)." (Sept. 5, 2008) http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fence
- Pierce, Tarik. "How to solve eBay's eFencing problem." Investor Trip. (Sept. 12, 2008) http://www.investortrip.com/how-to-solve-ebays-efencing-problem/
- Sauer, Jerett and Drew Kleven. "Online auctions and eFencing." Retail Industry Leaders Association. March 23, 2006. (Sept. 12, 2008) http://www.retail-leaders.org/new/resources/On-Line%20Auction%20Sites.pdf
- Wholesale Central."Retail crime and eFencing." Jan. 1, 2008. (Sept. 12, 2008) http://www.wholesalecentral.com/Retail-Crime-and-eFencing.htm
- Williams, Jere. "Investigations 1: fencing." San Francisco Police Department. (Sept. 12, 2008) http://www.sfgov.org/site/police_index.asp?id=19936