Shoppers are always on the hunt for good deals to ensure the best prices for their favorite products, but some of those deals have a costly history.
Unsuspecting customers can purchase stolen goods at a heavily discounted rate after shoplifters have sold the stolen property to middlemen, who peddle the products through unregulated venues, such as flea markets or online sites.
According to the National Retail Federation, theft can amount to annual losses as high as $37 billion for retail businesses and can cost individual consumers $400 each year.
Jerry Biggs, director of the Organized Retail Crime Division for Walgreens, warns consumers to look at the bigger picture than just what is being stolen. "It's a gateway crime. We see groups [profiting] $20,000 to $30,000 a day, and it can provide major funding for criminal activity."
Biggs offers consumers some tips on how to spot shoplifted items and what to do to help stop this crime.
Watch the full story on ABC's "The Lookout" Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET
If a deal looks "too good to be true, it probably is," says Biggs. He points caution to fast moving-products, such as everyday household items like toothpaste, shampoos and cosmetics that are marked half off when they normally would be full price at reputable stores. He also suggests consumers should "be cautious if you're buying goods that you would be consuming or would give to a child," and buy those products from a reputable venue if possible.
An ABC "Lookout" producer extends that caution after an investigation following organized retail crime with the Broward County police in Florida led to the seizure of $30,000 worth of stolen medication stored in the truck of a car in 90-degree weather, as well as another instance in Miami in which a shoplifter placed over-the-counter baby Tylenol down his pants to leave the store undetected.
|Check the Details|
Biggs advises shoppers to watch for expiration dates: "When you see things that have short dates, it's not a good sign." He also warns shoppers to look out for labels that have been scratched off products.
|If You See Something, Say Something|
If you think stolen goods are being sold, Biggs says to report the issue. He advises shoppers to contact local retailers, product manufacturers, the web host or local law enforcement agencies to look into the issue.
Some helpful information to pass along to these sources are the price the goods are selling for, if they are being sold in multiple quantities, any brand names on the product, as well as the date and seller information. If you spotted these goods online, Biggs recommends taking a screenshot of the product, and sharing the web address when reporting the claim. Biggs also adds that most customers will be able to remain anonymous when sharing these tips with local police task forces and companies.