Organized Retail Theft


Organized Retail Theft (ORT), also known as Organized Retail Crime (ORC), is the large-scale theft of retail merchandise with the intent to resell the stolen items for financial gain. ORT may involve a criminal enterprise that employs a group of individuals to steal large quantities of merchandise from multiple stores. These ORT groups maintain or utilize fencing operations to convert the stolen goods into cash.

The stolen items are then resold through various means including:

  • Online auction sites
  • Flea markets
  • Retailers
  • Pawn shops
  • E-commerce marketplaces
Retail Shoplifting - stock photo

 ORT vs Other Types of Retail Crime

As defined above, ORT involves highly sophisticated coordinated thefts at retail establishments.

Comparatively, Smash and Grab is a form of retail theft that involves smashing a barrier, usually a display in a store, to grab valuables. Key elements include the use of speed and surprise.

Flash Mob or Flash Rob is a form of shoplifting that occurs when an organized group, usually teenagers wearing similar articles of clothing to conceal their identities, select a specific retail store to rob at the same time. Flash robs usually target high-end stores.  

 Current ORT Trends

  • Using stolen or cloned credit cards to obtain merchandise 
  • Changing bar codes to pay lower prices  
  • Return stolen merchandise to obtain cash, gift cards, or store credit   
  • Resell merchandise on e-commerce sites  
  • Gift card theft/altering gift cards to steal the funds added to the cards when they are later purchased by legitimate shoppers

 Impact of Organized Retail Theft

ORT impacts both retailers and the everyday consumer in the following ways: 

  • Higher prices for American consumers and less tax revenue for state and local governments
  • Closing of retail businesses, loss of jobs, and food/pharmaceutical deserts 
  • Health and food safety  
  • Stolen food products, pharmaceuticals, and other consumable goods that are not maintained under proper conditions or labeled properly (which may make goods ineffective or make people ill) can make their way back to unsuspecting consumers 
  • Violence associated with ORT makes retail establishments less safe for consumers 

How to Report ORT

  • Call 911- if you are in immediate danger 
  • File a police report with your local or state law enforcement agent
  • Call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) 
  • Submit a tip online:

How is the FBI Investigating these Crimes?

ORT investigations are usually initiated and investigated by local law enforcement and retail industry personnel. The FBI relies on partnerships with these groups to identify and advance ORT cases to the federal level.

When ORT cases meet the federal prosecution threshold, the FBI investigates through collaboration with the private sector and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners.

The following are examples of ORT cases the FBI has investigated: