DENVER (CBS4)– Organized retail crime syndicates have found a modern-day pawnshop on platforms like Amazon and some state lawmakers say the giant e-commerce company is making it too easy for them.
A bill by Representatives Dylan Roberts and Terri Carver aims to crack down on professional shoplifters or “boosters.” They steal billions of dollars in merchandise every year from stores like Home Depot and peddle the stolen products, immediately and anonymously, on sites like Amazon, eBay and Facebook Marketplace.
Law enforcement recovered $1 million in stolen merchandise stacked floor to ceiling inside a Texas house last year. All of the loot had been stolen from Home Depots in Colorado.
“These people basically are stealing for a living,” says Mike Combs, head of investigations for Home Depot.
He says organized retail crime is rampant, “Our typical case is around $90,000 but upwards of millions of dollars in some of our cases.”
Chris Howes, President of Colorado Retail Council, says the crime rings cost retailers nationwide $68 billion last year and Colorado retailers nearly $1 billion, “These organized groups are going from store to store, state to state, and actually have grown more brazen and more violent.”
While there are laws that deter thieves from selling stolen goods at brick-and-mortar pawnshops, e-commerce sites are not held to the same standard.
Combs says they should be, “We’re asking legislators to consider more transparency and accountability.”
The so-called Inform Act by Carver and Roberts would require e-commerce sites to collect and verify a seller’s name, contact information, tax ID and bank account.
“By passing this legislation, we’ll create some basic verification and transparency in these online marketplaces to make sure when Coloradans go online, they’re not buying stolen products,” says Roberts.
The bill is modeled after federal legislation that Carver says Amazon and eBay support, “We believe Coloradans need to move forward, not wait for Congress to act. These escalating crimes in Colorado are costing consumers huge amounts of money.”
It costs not only retailers but consumers. The losses are often passed on in the form of higher prices.
The bill has Democratic and Republican sponsors in both chambers.