NRF to Shoppers: Be Wary of Health and Beauty Products Found on Auction Websites

WASHINGTON – The National Retail Federation is issuing a consumer alert, warning that common household items sold through some online auction sites could be stolen and possibly tainted.

According to NRF, well-known products found in health and personal care aisles nationwide are being targeted by organized retail crime rings. These groups often steal thousands of dollars of merchandise at a time with the intent to resell it for profit. 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.

“Criminals often take advantage of honest shoppers by selling stolen merchandise through online auction sites,” said Joseph LaRocca, NRF Vice President of Loss Prevention. “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:

Braun toothbrushes & replacement heads
Cover Girl cosmetics
Crest Whitestrips
Diabetic testing strips
e.p.t. pregnancy tests
Gillette MACH3, Venus and Sensor razors and refill cartridges
Oil of Olay
Oral B replacement heads
Pepcid AC
Schick Quattro razors and all Schick refill cartridges
Sonicare replacement heads
Tylenol Extra Strength
NRF recommends that shoppers only buy health and beauty items from reputable, legitimate retail companies, either in stores or through the companies’ websites.

For information about the dangers of using expired or improperly stored medication, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry’s key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail companies, more than 25 million employees – about one in five American workers – and 2007 sales of $4.5 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents over 100 state, national and international retail associations.