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Criminals use online auctions as a place to unload stolen, diverted and counterfeit products. EBay does little to stop them, creating more work for CSOs. Here's what smart companies do.
Many pairs of panties. Lacy panties, colorful panties, plain cotton panties, thongs;and not clearance ones, either. They were being stolen by the armful from Victoria's Secret stores in the Boston area, with losses in the thousands of dollars.
Simultaneously, an unusually large number of new Victoria's Secret panties were appearing in eBay auctions. In volume.
The company knew this because Paul Jones, CSO of Victoria's Secret parent company Limited Brands, has a small team of investigators who monitor online auctions. In any given day, they crawl through tens of thousands of listings for merchandise from Victoria's Secret, Limited and Express stores. One investigator, Joe Hajdu, had a hunch that the upswell in eBay panty auctions was no coincidence.
Posing as "Joyce," owner of a small store, Hajdu bid on and won 65 pairs of panties offered by a seller who called herself Inesteva. The picture of her merchandise had caught his eye. "They were almost displayed like we have them displayed in the stores," Hajdu says. "It was like someone had taken their arm and just swiped a whole table right into a bag."
When the package arrived, Hajdu was not surprised to find a return address in Andover, Mass., not far from where the panty thefts had occurred. Using his alias, Hajdu won a couple more of Inesteva's auctions. Soon, she asked him what else he wanted. It was the lead he needed. He requested a particular kind of Victoria's Secret panty from the company's "Pink" collection, featuring an embroidered dog on the front.
That was when the investigation swung into high gear. A regional loss prevention manager marked hundreds of pairs of dog-embroidered panties with ultraviolet ink, writing the store code on each price tag. The very night that 180 pairs of panties were stolen from a store in Marlboro, Mass., Inesteva e-mailed "Joyce." "I have 185 pairs of panties," Hajdu recalls Inesteva writing. She attached a picture of the panties, some of which were embroidered with dogs, and asked, "Would you like to buy them?"
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