Organized retail crime (ORC) investigations are an important focus for eBay’s collaboration with retailers for the following reasons:
- Trust is eBay’s top priority. Without trust our marketplace could not function.
- Stolen goods create an unfair and untrustworthy marketplace that drives away honest sellers because they are unable to compete.
Retailers are a force multiplier that help eBay remove criminals and keep stolen goods off our site, thus creating a more trustworthy marketplace. Collaboration is a two-way street with retailers’ investigative findings shared with eBay and law enforcement. PROACT retailers are required to:
- Conduct a thorough investigation before contacting eBay,
- Limit investigative requests to criminal activity that have a nexus to eBay, and
- Communicate investigative findings and resolutions to eBay.
The types of investigations we are involved in vary greatly. Below are some of the scams and red flags we proactively search for.
Organized Retail Crime Fencing
Perhaps the most widely known criminal on our radar is the fence. A fence is an individual who knowingly buys stolen property for later resale, normally in a legitimate marketplace. Simply defined, a fence markets known stolen items obtained from their own theft, booster crews, or other fences. Pawn shops, check-cashing businesses, and flea-market locations are common in this activity.
Although any item could be at risk, there are typical “hot items” we look for. The items preferred are almost always in high demand and relatively accessible to booster crews and individual shoplifters. Investigators questioning a suspect will find that receipts and documentation for items are sparse, fake, and are rarely provided.
The proceeds of their illegal actions are turned over quickly and used to obtain additional stolen goods to resell. These perpetrators are not brand loyal and typically sell on many online sites and physical locations. Businesses of this type will often try to hide behind willful negligence, meaning they don’t feel it’s their responsibility to verify sources on all the items they buy from others.
Following are some of the specific red flags we look for to identify fences:
. Pricing is typically significantly below retail or other eBay sellers.
. Savvy fences may mix in small amounts of stolen goods with legitimate products, such as combining stolen electronics with their antiques business to offset profit margins.
. They frequently will start auction prices at $0.99 with no reserve because they don’t care about the final price.
. High conversion rates and/or sales ramps are common depending on frequency of listings.
. Immediate access of funds through ATM withdrawals is typical.
. Fraudsters often provide great customer service and fast shipping.
. Public records often show a criminal history, large liens, and association with known criminals.
. Social media may show life events or issues that lend to the behavior, such as frivolous spending, gambling, or drug use.
. Shill bidding is a common tactic used to inflate the price of merchandise and prevent items from selling too low.
The Triangle Scam
The triangle or triangulation fraud begins with a seller listing items they do not have on hand at prices far below normal pricing. The scammer often lists the same product on multiple sites to move large amounts of product quickly. Once the seller completes a sale with a buyer, the inventory is purchased with stolen credit card credentials from retailers, manufacturers, and other online sellers. The seller provides the buyer’s shipping information to the retailer who then ships the product directly to the unsuspecting buyer. The low pricing results in quick inventory turn and dramatic sales increases.
Following are some of the specific red flags that help identify triangle fraud:
. Little or no sales history
. Pricing significantly below retail or other eBay sellers
. High demand or limited availability hot products
. Copy-and-paste listings using stock photos and descriptions
. High conversion rates and extreme sales ramps in short periods
. Refunds or extra dollars for positive feedback
. Sales proceeds received in foreign accounts
. Newly registered accounts with immediate high volume sales
. Feedback comments stating no response from seller
These are just a few of the criminal activities we investigate in collaboration with retailers. To learn more about these investigations and other eBay asset protection programs, contact PROACT@ebay.com.
Retailers are a force multiplier that help eBay remove criminals and keep stolen goods off our site, thus creating a more trustworthy marketplace. Collaboration is a two-way street with retailers’ investigative findings shared with eBay and law enforcement.
DiSilva is senior manager of global asset protection for eBay where he oversees eBay’s tools and PROACT teams. He can be reached at 408-332-8666 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Averett is PROACT senior investigator, and Hardman is PROACT investigator. The eBay PROACT investigations team can be reached at PROACT@ebay.com.