New federal law cracks down on the sale of stolen goods on websites like Amazon, Facebook, eBay

ByJason Knowles and Megan Hawkins WLS logo
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
New federal law cracks down on sale of stolen goods online
A new federal law in effect Tuesday helps prevent stolen good from being sold online on sites like Amazon, Facebook Marketplace and eBay.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new federal law in effect Tuesday helps prevent stolen goods from being sold online.

You may not realize it, but when you get a great deal online for household goods or clothing there is a chance you could be buying stolen merchandise. Those items could be swiped by thieves from local brick-and-mortar stores.

Large-scale robberies across Chicago have been captured on video, many of them run by organized retail crime rings. The new Inform Consumer Act requires online marketplaces like eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Amazon to track high-volume third party sellers to collect and verify their identities and bank account information.

The legislation, sponsored by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), is meant to combat the sale of stolen goods online.

"We had to put this change in the law that if you're going to regularly sell on the internet, you have to be prepared to disclose your identity. The word has to get out, there's a price to pay," he said.

"The amount of theft that's occurring due to the activity of these gangs is just the tip of the iceberg," said Jason Straczewski of the National Retail Federation. "A lot of this is very much sophisticated and very suave criminal groups that are able to steal multiple items in large amounts, very quickly."

While thieves often sell those items online, the Federal Trade Commission is now putting the companies on notice, telling them to kick criminal groups off their sites or pay fines up to nearly $50,000. State attorneys general could also take civil action.

Seventy percent of major retailers surveyed by the Loss Prevention Council said organized retail crime is on the rise, and honest shoppers are paying both the literal and metaphorical price.

"It's becoming harder for them to easily access the goods they're looking to shop," Straczewski said. "There's barriers being put between the consumer and the product."

"It adds to the cost for everyone. It means that the store obviously has a loss and has to make up for it in the next sale, higher prices, so ultimately the consumers pay those prices because of retail theft," said Durbin.

Eighty-one percent of major retailers said they're seeing more violence associated with retail theft. In Chicago, an employee was recently stabbed during a robbery at Target's State Street store. The retailer's CEO called crimes like these "an urgent issue" not just for Target, but the entire retail industry.

The National Retail Federation said retailers cannot solve the problem of rising theft on its own. They need help from law enforcement and federal agencies and consumers need to be savvy. If a deal is too good to be true, it's probably a stolen product.

"It's going to mean that the internet is a lot more honest to the consumers. For people who are buying things to know that this is a genuine product, and it's a legal product, is good news," said Durbin.

The I-Team checked in with some of the online retailers affected by the new law. EBay said it supports this effort to "protect consumers from bad actors."

Facebook said the company is complying. Amazon did not respond to ABC7's requests for comment yet, but its website said that the company is supporting this new legislation to regulate third party sellers.