COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Attention, online shoppers: beware before you buy from online marketplaces.
“There’s a lot of product out on some of those sites that, large and small online marketplaces, where the product is stolen or counterfeit and it’s being sold for reduced cost, and the consumer might not be aware that they’re buying something that is stolen or may have been involved in an aggressive crime.”
That warning from Mike Combs, the Director of Asset Protection at Home Depot –a company that’s witnessed this kind of criminal activity first-hand.
Last November, Combs said investigators searched a home in Texas, and found more than $1 million dollars in merchandise that was stolen from Home Depot stores, intended to be sold online for a profit.
“That’s what we call ‘organized retail crime,'” said Combs. “It’s not petty shoplifting. It’s serious individuals that are making a living off this.”
Which is why, Combs said, shoppers should look for warning signs from sellers before making any purchases.
“Someone that is selling product for far, far less than retail value,” said Combs.
And on the flip side, if the listed price of the product is higher than what you might see on other retail sites.
Additionally –“Someone that is selling product that is new in the box or bragging that it’s got tags on it. Product that may look like it’s had security tags ripped off or aggressively removed, that damaged the package,” said Combs.
Combs said several large retailers, including Home Depot, now have departments solely dedicated to cracking down on these third-party sellers. But also asks buyers to do their part, as the problem grows.
“If you can’t tell or validate who you’re buying from or where it’s coming from, I would be kind of cautious on that,” said Combs.
In March, a bill was introduced in the senate, called the Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act, or the INFORM Act.It will require online marketplaces to collect and verify third-party sellers’ government ID, tax ID, bank account information and contact information, and require high-volume sellers to disclose that information to buyers. Combs said he hopes it passes sooner than later.