HONOLULU (KHON2) — Organized retail crime has become an increased threat to the economy, with groups making large purchases of stored-value cards, high-dollar wire transfers tied to wholesale companies involved with health and beauty supplies, among others.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) have partnered to help combat organized retail crime, which is leading to more violent attacks in stores throughout the country.

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“In Hawaii, organized retail crime is not something that only impacts large department stores. It hits small businesses particularly hard,” Special Agent in Charge John F. Tobon said in the announcement. “It hurts the economy, businesses owners and the consumer in many ways.”

The report highlights red flags associated with criminal organizations and serves as a guide for law enforcement — it outlines red flags associated with schemes generating billions of dollars annually.

Read the full report below.

“Organized retail theft is a low-risk, high-reward crime that generates nearly $70 billion in the United States alone, and much of that sum is routed into financial institutions under the guise of legitimate sales made through online marketplaces,” said co-author of the report Lauren Kohr, ACAMS Senior Director of AML in the Americas. “For this reason, it is critical that banks and other financial institutions are not only aware of the scale of the problem but also actively work to identify and report related suspicious activity.”

Organized retail crime is more than just shoplifting. These groups engage in large-scale thefts which rely on teams of “boosters” who steal goods from major stores; then the “cleaners” disguise the origins of stolen goods, and the “fencers” resell them through brick-and-mortar fronts and e-commerce sites. Professional money launderers funnel the illicit profits to criminals orchestrating the schemes.

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To report suspicious activity, including organized retail crime, call the toll-free tip line at 866-347-2423.