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WASHINGTON -- The National Retail Federation here is issuing a consumer alert, warning that common household items sold through some online auction sites could be stolen and possibly tainted.
The consumer alert comes as organized retail crime rings are targeting a growing number of well-known products found in health and personal care aisles nationwide. Criminals may not keep stolen merchandise in a temperature-controlled environment, so merchandise like baby formula and over-the-counter medicines can easily spoil. In addition, as thieves look to resell stolen products online, consumers are left with no way to ensure they are getting the quality they paid for, the trade group said.
"Criminals often take advantage of honest shoppers by selling stolen merchandise through online auction sites," said Joseph LaRocca, NRF v.p. of loss prevention, in a statement. "Many health and beauty products on these sites may have expired or be spoiled, posing real health risks to the buyer."
NRF's warning comes on the heels of a high profile bust of an organized retail crime ring in Florida that may have stolen more than $100 million in health and beauty items over a five-year period. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, organized retail crime costs the retail industry roughly $30 billon each year.
"The pennies a shopper may save buying drugstore products through Internet auction sites are not worth the potential health risks," said LaRocca. "Once the legitimate distributor is taken out of the equation, there is no guarantee that merchandise is safe."
Organized retail crime investigators from a variety of the nation's largest retailers have identified these items as the top health and beauty products stolen and resold by criminals, NRF said:
Braun toothbrushes & replacement heads
Cover Girl cosmetics
Diabetic testing strips
e.p.t. pregnancy tests
Gillette MACH3, Venus and Sensor razors and refill cartridges
Oil of Olay
Oral B replacement heads
Schick Quattro razors and all Schick refill cartridges
Sonicare replacement heads
Tylenol Extra Strength