US Retailers Falsely Accusing People of Shoplifting to Recover Losses

United States shoppers have been experiencing an uncertain situation in the last few years. Thousands are arrested every year while going about their regular business at home or at work facing charges of shoplifting at their local retail store.

People who are picked up and arrested by police for the crime are often confused and terrified. In some cases, no arrest is made a person is given a court date and is entered into the FBI database as a thief. After being taken to the local jail and released days later, they begin to receive letters from the retailer’s attorneys. In the correspondence, an attorney would demand that the individual pay a small amount of money, such as $200, or face legal action. An individual is apt to get several notes like this throughout the few months following their arrest.

State Laws Help Retailers

Unfortunately, it’s a shady practice by many retailers to combat the problem of shoplifting. The crime costs the stores over $17 billion each year, according to estimates. Generally, retailers try to recover the money lost every year by having their attorneys threaten innocent people, demanding that they turn over money for items they never stole in the first place. Companies get away with this practice thanks to weak state laws, many of which exist simply so retailers can go after supposed shoplifters without actually having to take them to court.

Unfortunately for the innocent parties, in many states, the retailer isn’t required to return money to the person even when the individual is found innocent. For example, an executive from Walmart acknowledged in a court deposition that the company never followed up to check whether the people they accused of shoplifting had been convicted of the crime. Walmart is just one of the many retail companies that regularly hire law firms to deliver tens of thousands of letters to people annually, accusing them of shoplifting and demanding they pay. Walmart’s goal was to collect $6 million in 2016 alone.

For the innocent person who receives one of the intimidating letters, it’s generally their word against that of a large retailer. Many people don’t know how to react, much less respond to the message, and feel helpless to fight back.

Collection Practice Lawsuits

Many years ago, the retail industry fought the state legislature for the right to recover money lost to shoplifters. Businesses started with minor fines, but this situation is now developing into something much bigger. Retailers believe that penalties would do a lot to stop theft and prevent the need to raise their prices to compensate for the losses.

There have been some lawsuits against retailers for their collection practices, which unfairly target innocent people. However, the laws have generally remained the same in many states. Maryland is an exception, as it modified the rules. The state began requiring retailers to report the number of letters sent as of 2016. The local government will likely assemble a task force to study this information to see how they can protect citizens from falling into this situation.

Orlando Theft Attorney

If you are under investigation for shoplifting or received an injudicious letter in the mail from an attorney claiming that you owe money, it’s important to speak with a well-versed shoplifting defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney will be able to provide you with the best shoplifting and retail theft defense strategy to prevent your misguided arrested. The Umansky Law Firm can help. Our expert Central Florida lawyers are driven to proving individuals innocent and providing them with a fresh start after being wronged. Learn more by contacting the Umansky Law Firm at (407)-228-3838 for a free case evaluation.