Every one likes a good deal, but if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
At some level, we all know that. But there are many people around the world who can't pass up a bargain, which is just what the bad guys are counting on, according to a new book by retail expert Hitha Prabhakar, Black Market Billions: How Organized Retail Crime Funds Global Terrorists.
After doing extensive research and following the money trail first-hand, the Bloomberg TV correspondent uncovered a $38 billion black market business that funds not only organized crime, but also terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Al Qaeda as well as drug lords in Central America. And the business is growing, she says, driven by the rise of the Internet, social media and the accessibility to disposable cell phones.
Prabhakar was turned on to this underground business after receiving an offer via text message for luxury designer handbags at a fraction of the retail price, she tells The Daily Ticker Aaron Task in the accompanying video. The man on the other side of the text tried to sell her handbags that typically go for upwards of $1,000 for less than $500. Obviously, she knew something was up. It is rare to find those accessories for less than half the retail cost unless they are fake or stolen.
She pressed the man trying to sell her the bags. It turns out the merchandise was real, but stolen by an organized crime ring from the sales floors of high-end retailers.
In writing the book, which is drawn upon a series of first-person interviews with law enforcement and criminals themselves, Prabhakar discovered that it is not only clothing and handbags that are being stolen and sold for cheap. Beauty products, jewelry and prescription drugs are also hot items as are Procter & Gamble's (PG) Crest Whitestrips.
When shopping Internet sites such as EBay (EBay) and Craigslist, flea markets or from street vendors, her advice is to be wary of deals that seem way too good to be true. Passing up a bargain is hard, but thinking about where the money trail can lead makes it easier to do the "right" thing.