NRF to Shoppers: Be Aware of Health and Beauty Products Found on Auction Websites

On February 20th the National Retail Federation (NRF) issued a consumer alert warning the general public that common household items sold through some online auction sites could be stolen and possibly tainted. Read the consumer alert.

“Criminals often take advantage of honest shoppers by selling stolen merchandise through online auction sites,†said Joseph LaRocca, NRF Vice President of Loss Prevention. “Many health and beauty products on these sites may have expired or be spoiled, posing real health risks to the buyer.â€

I often deal with retailers on suspected product tampering cases. I say "suspected" because the vast majority of these cases are not true product tampering cases, but turn out to be defective packaging and prior customer product inspection issues.

I would never recommend purchasing health and beauty products from an online auction website for the obvious reasons as stated by the NRF alert, but also because you do not have a chance to examine the product before purchasing it.

Here are some tips when buying over-the-counter products, from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association:

  • Check for dirt or discoloration on the package. This could be a sign of improper storage.
  • Check for tape on the package. This may indicate that the product has been removed and replaced with something else.
  • Check for ink spots on the package. Some individuals who replace the contents of a package with another product or even foreign material mark the tampered-with carton so they do not accidentally re-purchase it themselves.
  • Check for excess glue on the package. If applied by the actual supplier, the glue should be virtually unnoticeable.
  • Check for loose flaps, cuts, or tears on the packaging.
  • Check for stickers or strange tags.

If the package makes a strange sound when shaken, this could be a sign that something other than the intended product is in the container.

Ever since the "Tylenol" product tampering murder cases in the 1980s I have made it a practice to check the packaging of all OTC medicines I purchase.

- Curtis Baillie, Principal Consultant - Security Consulting Strategies LLC