Area businesses face significant losses due to Organized Retail Crime. FBI statistics peg the losses as high as $30 billion dollars a year nationwide.
Rania Mankarious with Crime Stoppers of Houston says criminals run a sophisticated operation beginning with crooks known as boosters.
"These men and women steal items in high quantities and sell them to fences. The fence, will turn around and sell the item at a discounted price directly to consumers or at a flea market, pawn shop or online. The fence can also sell the items to a middle man, who can then open, contaminate, alter expiration dates and repackage the goods for individual sale."
High demand consumer products include baby formula, laundry detergent, diabetic testing strips, over the counter medication and consumer electronics.
Houston Police Officer James Sobota says shoplifters rip the stores off using heavily lined shopping bags to avoid detection.
"And this is quite common. What this does, with all the security tags and the monitors near the front of the store, they will conceal them in here and most cases, they do not pick up on the monitors by the front door. Most cases they have a getaway vehicle close by the front door, they jump into the car and take off."
The thefts happen so quickly retailers have no idea they've been ripped off.
Officials say consumers should remember that if an item is found for an unusually low price, chances are it may have come from organized retail crime activity.