Is that cat accessory you bought on Facebook Marketplace a shoplifted item?

Facebook Marketplace is promoted by Facebook as a place to sell anything you’ve got. You can find what you want and the prices look very good, suspiciously good sometimes. They look enticingly low which leads me to believe that sometimes the products on sale have been shoplifted.

And it might be that I’m correct because, in the UK, the policing chief for retail crime has asked Meta, the parent company of Facebook, to demand that users of the platform identify themselves and their location.

The demand is being made because Chief Superintendent Alex Goss believes that Facebook Marketplace is contributing to the dramatic surge in shoplifting in the UK after the pandemic.

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Alex Goss is the head of retail crime at the National Police Chiefs’ Council. He believes that Meta needs to do more and to start thinking about criminality when building their retail platforms.

In the UK, police forces are attending almost twice as many shoplifting cases reported to them since they agreed to tackle shoplifting compared to the past when they declared to the world that they wouldn’t attend shoplifting cases. Comment: when they did that, they encouraged shoplifting and it’s happening right now at an horrendous level. It is no surprise to me.

If Facebook Marketplace is partly responsible for the surge in shoplifting in the UK, the police are also partly responsible.

The current police thinking in the UK is to go to shops where a suspect has been detained by staff for shoplifting or threatening behaviour. I’d argue that it is hypocritical of the police to blame Meta.

Before this change in policy, the police went to fewer than 40% of shoplifting calls; now 76% according to figures collected by the above-mentioned Council.

The Times reports that Facebook Marketplace has been blamed for helping to fuel record rates of shoplifting in the UK with 402,482 cases reported to the police in the year to September 2023, a third more than the previous year.

Facebook Marketplace does not require sellers to verify their identity or location. Very few online retailing platforms are this sloppy.

This is facilitating organised crime as the police believe that organised crime gangs are behind the surge in shoplifting.

Users of the platform only require a Facebook profile to start selling goods. They don’t have to prove who they are. People exploit this weakness in creating accounts under false names which protects them from prosecution.

They don’t need to state their home location; they simply state the location where they want to sell the items.

The police believe that organised crime gangs send individuals into stores to steal high value items en masse which are then sold on at pubs, car boot sales and Facebook Marketplace.

Goss added that: “Anything where you don’t have to verify your identity will be a risk to criminality”. He wants Meta to work with the police in the UK to tackle shoplifting but he realises that it’s a huge challenge and understands that social media is “a fantastic tool for lots of things [but] it gets used by criminals so I would certainly encourage firms to think about criminality when they are creating databases and working with police and enforcement agencies.”

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2 thoughts on “Is that cat accessory you bought on Facebook Marketplace a shoplifted item?”

  1. The allure of Facebook Marketplace, with its wide array of items at seemingly unbeatable prices, can indeed raise eyebrows and lead to skepticism regarding the origin of such goods. The observation that some deals appear “suspiciously good” touches on a crucial concern about the potential for platforms like these to inadvertently become conduits for the sale of shoplifted merchandise. This situation underscores the importance of vigilance among buyers to ensure that their pursuit of a good deal does not unwittingly support illegal activities. It also highlights the responsibility of platforms like Facebook Marketplace to implement and enforce measures that help verify the legitimacy of the goods being sold, thereby protecting both buyers and the integrity of the marketplace. As consumers, fostering ethical shopping habits and supporting transparency can contribute to a safer and more trustworthy online buying and selling environment.

    • Thanks Daisy for a very nicely composed comment. It is most welcome 😊. I feel a certain lack of confidence in Facebook’s willingness or will to tighten up the requirements to post on Facebook Marketplace. I don’t see it happening. Meta’s goal is to build users. If someone somewhere is the victim of a theft or the victim of buying stolen goods, that is the problem of the police and the victims. This seems to be the attitude of FB. Fair?


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