Organized shoplifters and crime rings are using Facebook Marketplace as a “go-to destination” for selling their stolen goods, according to a new report from NBC News.
The 2,800-word report by investigative reporters Simone Weichselbaum and Andrew Blankstein focuses on the theft of power tools from big-box stores like Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes in a small town, Perrysburg, Ohio (population 21,000).
“[Facebook] seems to have become America’s favorite new fence,” the NBC report said. “Industry watchers say online marketplaces make it easy for criminals to offload their loot with ease. … In recent years, police say, Facebook Marketplace has increasingly become a go-to destination for organized rings that sell items ripped from big-box store shelves.”
“Among law enforcement agencies, the company has already gained a reputation for being so slow to respond and cooperate that investigators often have to give up or invent workarounds. …E-commerce experts said that as Facebook Marketplace grows, its oversight isn’t keeping up.”
Although they check pawn shops for stolen merchandise, Perrysburg police typically don’t find it there. “Instead, Facebook Marketplace monopolizes their time, having become the area’s top source of illegal transactions,” NBC reported. “Detectives say that … in the last few years, as Facebook Marketplace has grown in popularity, they are getting slammed. [Detective Sgt. Todd] Curtis said nearly all of their investigations now involve suspects who sell their stolen items on the site.”
A spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, told NBC, “Organized retail crime is an industry-wide challenge and preventing it requires ongoing collaboration between retailers, law enforcement and online marketplaces.”
The report said officers wait months for Meta to answer requests, and it often provides a comprehensive dump that’s “impossible to go through.”
“When we call Facebook for help, we usually have to go through links, emails, things like that. We never get to speak to someone,” Curtis said. “I don’t know what the reluctance is. I don’t know if it’s manpower. I don’t know if it’s something that they think is not a big deal.”
NBC said Marketplace “hasn’t built out a system like eBay’s, in which officers can work with a point person throughout a case as it moves forward. Instead, it communicates with police using [an] online portal to track the queries.”
For more, read the report here.