Those awesome items on Facebook Marketplace could be stolen, metro police warn

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Thieves have gone high tech, and they’re intensifying their efforts during the holidays. Police say thieves are stealing goods and using social media like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to sell them.

Overland Park Police Det. Byron Pierce said they catch a lot of ordinary shoplifters this time of year, but police also see rings of thieves who take a more organized approach, in what police call “grab and go” or “smash and grab” thefts.

He said the larger groups often send one or two people into the store in advance to locate the most valuable merchandise, count the number of employees in the store or even mark certain items for the next person in their ring to go in and steal.

Thieves then post their stolen goods on Facebook Marketplace for sale. Pierce said some thieves even use apps like Snapchat and Instagram to steal specific items based on the need or the order of their so-called clients.

Once the thief steals the particular design or size the client wants, they communicate with each other to arrange a meet-up and make the sale.

But some innocent social media shoppers could also unknowingly buy stolen goods.

Police warn that you should watch out for stolen items when you shop on social media sites like Facebook Marketplace. Checking the seller’s ratings might help you verify how reliable they are.

Watch for these red flags:

  • Several items from the same store with the security sensors still attached
  • Several items with the sales tags still attached or in new, original packaging (ask to see the original purchase receipt).
  • Multiple sizes of the same item

This month Overland Park police launched Operation Fraud at Oak Park Mall for the 18th year. They have additional on-duty and off-duty officers working alongside mall security, plus many cameras recording surveillance inside and outside the mall.

Police also train staff members from all of the mall's stores on what to watch out for and give them a direct number to contact an officer at the first sign of any suspicious behavior.

If you’re out shopping and you see something strange, police are asking you to say something. You can tell a store employee or security officer. Or call 911 or the Oak Park Mall security number at 913-208-3036.