If the growing threat from organized crime weren't enough, retailers are now seeing a rise in a new, Internet-enabled brand of theft: e-fencing.
E-fencing, which refers to the online trafficking of stolen goods, is fast becoming the operating mode of choice among organized crime rings. It's easy to see why. Hawking stolen goods on Internet auction sites allows criminals to reach a national audience, and because no face-to-face contact is required (as with, say, pawn shops), it cuts the risk of identification.
The National Retail Federation's 2006 Organized Retail Crime survey indicates that e-fencing is becoming increasingly widespread. Some 67 percent of the lossprevention executives who participated in the survey said they had recovered stolen goods from e-fencing operations, compared to just over half who said they had recovered merchandise or gift cards from a physical fence operator.
The retailers' theft problems aren't limited to e-fencing, however. The survey results showed that organized crime rates in general were on the rise. A full 81 percent of the respondents indicated their companies had been a victim of organized retail crime. Almost half (48 percent) of those polled also said that there had been a slight increase in activity since last year.
As retailers see it, their best hope for combating theft is to band together and work in conjunction with national law enforcement agencies. Due to the vastness and complexity of organized retail crime, the majority (89 percent) of the respondents feel that there is a need for a national database to track activity and three-fourths (75 percent) say they either will or are likely to participate in such a system.