Organized Retail Crime (ORC) is a broad, escalating problem not limited to shoplifting but an insidious issue affecting the entire retail ecosystem. ORC encompasses theft from retail stores to pilfering goods from supply chains. According to CargoNet, cargo theft rose alarmingly by 41% in the initial 20 weeks of 2023. ORC groups involved in these crimes are well-structured and can move stolen merchandise in large quantities through both legal and illegal channels.
Recent law enforcement efforts have managed to reclaim millions worth of stolen goods, proving the gravity of this illicit business. However, theft is not the only strategy these groups employ. They also engage in fraud, often using stolen credit cards or account credentials to purchase merchandise that is then resold, causing retailers to suffer losses twice over—the lost product and the financial chargeback from the fraudulent transaction.
Additionally, gift card scams have become a common feature of ORC, often exploiting the elderly or unsuspecting employees. Fraudsters alter gift cards or deceive people into buying them under false pretenses. In 2022 alone, the Federal Trade Commission registered over 48,000 cases of gift card fraud, accounting for more than $228 million in losses.
ORC is not just the work of local gangs; it includes international theft rings as well. Several South American groups have gained notoriety for executing sophisticated jewelry thefts and burglaries in affluent neighborhoods nationwide.
To tackle ORC effectively, robust legislation is necessary. The INFORM Act and the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act of 2023 (S. 140/H.R. 895) have been proposed to intensify federal support and resources for investigations into these complex crimes. WR urges the public and its members to back these laws by contacting their congressional representatives using this simple tool provided by the NRF.