Organized Retail Crime (ORC) is a problem that is growing, pervasive, and needs to be addressed on a micro and macro level. In recent years, ORC has become more pervasive, affecting virtually every retail sector. Concurrent with this growth in ORC activity, the perpetrators have become more aggressive and brazen.
So, what is ORC?
The definition of ORC, according to the Loss Prevention Research Council, is “Predatory crimes in which one or more offenders knowingly and intentionally plan or coordinate criminal activities on one or more occasions with the intent of financially profiting themselves, a group, or a broader criminal enterprise with which they are associated through the acquisition of cash, other financial instruments, or merchandise that can be resold, returned, exchanged, or otherwise used to generate a profit.”
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) defines ORC as “the association of two or more persons engaged in illegally obtaining items of value from retail establishments, through theft and/or fraud, as part of a criminal enterprise.”
ORC has become very sophisticated. It employs a market-specific infrastructure, wherein certain products are targeted. After these products are targeted, “boosters” (or those enlisted to do the actual stealing) are recruited to acquire them through various means. These products can simply be shoplifted, ordered online or in a store using fraudulent credit cards, or procured through cargo theft, which is no doubt the most consequential and costly method.
A 2022 survey conducted by the National Retail Federation found that these are the most common products stolen by ORC rings:
- Designer apparel
- Charging cords
- Health and Beauty
- Medication (Pharma)
- Blades and razors
- Body wash
- Designer handbags
- Fashion and fine jewelry
- Designer sunglasses
- Branded eyewear
- Men’s and women’s footwear
- Athletic shoes and sneakers
- Designer shoes
- Home Furnishings
- Home goods
- High-end mirrors
- Home Improvement
- Power tools and equipment
- Outdoor and seasonal tools
- Office Supplies
- Ink cartridges
- Food and Beverages
- Energy drinks
- Children’s Items
- Infant formula
- Infant and toddler items
- Children’s toys
- Pet Medication
- Travel items
- Physical and electronic gift cards
In many cases, these items are sold in online marketplaces, or OM’s. These OM’s have essentially become storefronts for perpetrators in ORC, avenues for liquidating stolen items and turning them into cash. Some examples of Online Marketplaces are:
- Offer Up
New Legislation is aimed at the need for sellers to disclose identity.
From the FTC:
Under the new law, “online marketplaces” (a phrase the statute defines) where “high-volume third party sellers” (another defined term) offer new or unused consumer products must collect, verify, and disclose certain information about those sellers. Violations could result in civil penalties of $50,120 per violation for online marketplaces.
A ‘‘high-volume third party seller’’ is a seller in an online marketplace that, in any continuous 12-month period during the past 24 months, has had on that platform 200 or more separate sales or transactions of new or unused consumer products, and $5,000 or more in gross revenues.
Collection. Online marketplaces must collect bank account information, contact information, and a Tax ID number from high-volume third party sellers.
Verification. Online marketplaces must verify the information they get from high-volume third party sellers. They also must require sellers to keep their information current and to certify it as accurate at least once a year.
Disclosure. For high-volume third party sellers that meet a certain level of sales on a platform, online marketplaces must disclose in the sellers’ product listings or order confirmations specific information about the seller.
Suspension of non-compliant sellers. Online marketplaces must suspend high-volume third party sellers that don’t provide information the law requires.
Reporting mechanism. Online marketplaces must provide online high-volume third party sellers’ product listings a clear way for consumers to report suspicious conduct.
So, what exactly is the INFORM Consumers Act and how might it help businesses contend with organized retail crime (ORC)?
The Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act, or INFORM Consumers Act imposes hefty fines on online marketplaces that run afoul of the law. This is especially consequential, as the proliferation of online marketplaces in recent years has created a haven for thieves to anonymously sell stolen merchandise.
- According to the Federal Trade Commission, the following changes will occur:
- Under the new law, online marketplaces must collect, verify, and disclose certain information about high-volume sellers.
- There will be more transparency in online transactions, which will deter criminals from acquiring stolen, counterfeit, and unsafe items for sale in online marketplaces.
- Online marketplaces will be required to collect bank account information, contact information, and a Tax ID number from high-volume third party sellers.
- Online marketplaces will be required to verify the information they receive from high-volume third party sellers.
- Specific information, i.e., bank account information, tax ID information, contact information, etc. will be required for third party sellers that meet a certain level of sales on a platform.
- Online marketplaces will be required to suspend high-volume third party sellers that do not comply with the new law.
- Online marketplaces will be required to provide a clear way for consumers to report suspicious conduct under the new law as well.
Furthermore, high-volume third party sellers who choose to violate the law could incur civil penalties of $50,120 per violation. Add to this, the fact that States Attorneys General and other officials authorized by the state can file action in federal court to enjoin further law violation, seek civil penalties, obtain damages, restitution, or other compensation for a state’s residents, and you have a piece of legislation with some teeth.
You can learn more here:
- Alerting Neighboring Stores – Even Competitors.
- Crimestoppers Affiliation.
- Educate and inform employees.
- Employee training and awareness.
- Verifying ID, names, etc. on online sales
- Conferences and Events with industry affiliates
- Law enforcement, retailers, stakeholders in retail.
- Useful to build a bigger case
- Loss Prevention ORC Teams – use data, news surveillance footage, evidence to learn scope.
- Employees – i.e., product securement, location, etc.
- Internal loss prevention databases
- Reduce Felony Theft Thresholds
- Keep your people, customers, and bystanders safe. Violence is on the increase. Gun use is on the increase.
- Educate them.
- Inform them.
- Develop a system to communicate.
- Technological ResourcesAnti-Theft Shopping CartsORCA Databases (AUROR)
- Cloud-based CCTV Systems (can help with prosecution)
- Physical Security Improvements or UpgradesPanic Buttons to call local law enforcement.Expandable BarriersImproved LightingLocker Rooms (to store targeted items in off hours)Cage sensitive merchandiseKey Management/Securement
- Security Guards
ORC is NOT simply people breaking in and shoplifting in large groups. It is sophisticated fraud.
- Cargo Theft
Official Site of Homeland Security: