Investigators say criminal "fencers" are the key to organized retail crime rings popping up in St. Louis and across the country. They're the ones who recruit and organize the shoplifters, and the ones who then turn stolen good into illicit profit.
KMOX Virtual Consumer Editor Megan Lynch spoke with Landon Winkelvoss, co-founder and VP at threat intelligence firm, Nisos.
"We have losses that are well into the billions and they are well documented," points out Winkelvoss. A new report from Nisos cites the National Retail Federation, which says retailer losses increased from $94 billion in 2021 to $112 billion in 2022. That rise was primarily driven by theft.
It's the so-called "boosters" -- the shoplifters -- who sweep in and steal from retail stores, but it's the fencers who bring in the cash. "So when they ultimately have the goods, they have to monetize them, they look to online marketplaces," explains Winkelvoss. He points out, retailers can be the first line of defense if they document and track repeat offenders, "so the ability to flag a license plate, flag individuals, close the store [to] prevent mass looting."
The Nisos report found that fencers come from many walks of life and are often teams of family members. "The use of familial relationships centralizes
trust and eases overall coordination. It also simplifies the use of family residences or businesses for storing and shipping stolen goods," according to the investigation.
When it comes to advice to consumers, Nisos recommends:
• If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
• Beware of online marketplace sellers with high sale numbers in short time periods, particularly those selling “new” goods.
• Use caution when interacting with sellers offering “store brands” or merchandise not typically available on marketplaces, particularly by accounts that have minimal or no purchase history.
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