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E Fencing


You may be the victim of an organized crime ring and not even know it.

Organized crime rings are difficult to pick off unless you know what you are looking for. We are all familiar with the lone thief because they are front and centre and the first point of contact, but they may work with others to distract you so they can be alone, and hidden from your view.

The one role I do want to highlight in this article is “the fence”. You may not see them, but they are instrumental in the supply chain to move product. The scary part of the new formula though is that they may not be a person at all, the fence could be a website.

Before moving on I do want to point out that many legitimate companies get branded with a negative label because their website gets used for nefarious reasons. For that reason, I will not be using the name of any familiar online second-hand selling site in this article. It would be inappropriate and unfair.

Let’s just call the process e-fencing.

In the past, a criminal gang had to move inventory to a warehouse of sorts, to store the goods, and even display the goods for customers. This could be in the form of a condo, which we are all too familiar with (at least 4 per year get busted across the country with over half a million dollars worth of merchandise).

Data Source CTV News: E-Fencing 

“Don’t be fooled by stolen merchandise assuming it happens from multiple shoplifters, it could be the work of a lone bandit.”

With the proliferation of e-fencing, professional shoplifters can peddle their wares a lot easier. In fact, in some cases, the thief will take photos of merchandise while in the store, post the pics, wait for a hit (or purchase as it is) and then steal the goods. The days of lists are history.

If you don’t already have a posted public policy restricting the taking of photographs in the store it may be time to do so. I know cell phones and cameras are everywhere, but at least it gives you cause to approach somebody snapping pics of your merchandise, and ask them to stop.


Understanding and making sense of what is taking place is a step in the right direction.

Staff awareness goes a long way. If you have 4 people working for you, that’s 4 extra sets of eyes. And we already know thieves do not like a store where staff looks around and greets them with a smile.


When you discover product missing, look for tracks, like time of day, day of week, type of product, area of selection, area of concealment.


Work with law enforcement with the information. Your incident could be the piece of a much bigger puzzle that they are working on.

Talk it up internally to make sure you are getting all the relevant information from the grassroots of the sales floor.

The bottom line is this – you are an attractive target. As soon as you open your doors for business you become a target.

Bookmark all of the relevant social media sites that list re-sale goods. Some are the big global sites, and others simply facebook pages with titles like yourtownmarketplace, or yourtownbuyandsell. Check them out periodically.

About Stephen O'Keefe

As an independent consultant I leverage my experience and knowledge to help a number of companies achieve results. Clients range from non-retailers looking for guidance to serve their retail customer, to retailers looking for quick solutions to unique and costly problems, right to the Industry Association. Bottom line Matters!

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