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Most Stolen Products: Cosmetics

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Maybe she's born with it. Maybe she's stealing Maybelline.

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If you've been noticing a healthier, more youthful glow and dazzling, shimmery eyes among the common criminal population these days, it's because more and more shoplifters are using their five-finger discount for the sake of vanity. Health and beauty products consistently rank among the most sought-after stolen goods. Maybe she's born with it. Maybe she's stealing Maybelline.

The UK-based Center for Retail Research listed cosmetics in general as the number-two category in its Shoplifters' Hit Parade with makeup, perfume, hair care, skin creams, and tanning products specifically targeted. And, make no mistake, these are discriminating thieves who don't just pop any old tube of mascara at random into their pockets. According to Joshua Bamfield, the center's director, "... shoplifters are as brand-conscious as any shop customer."

Data released from the National Retail Federation supports Bamfield's claim. The high-end hair-care product line from Bumble and bumble, CoverGirl (PG) cosmetics, and RoC (JNJ) and Oil of Olay skin-care creams topped statistics for most stolen items among the nation's largest retailers. Even Rogaine hair-growth products made the "hot" list, so look for the guy in the police lineup with a full head of hair.

The Center for Retail Research claims that nearly a half a million people shoplift at least once a year and the petty thieves who plan to personally use the merchandise typically steal five to 10 items in one fell swoop. In that case, the outlaw daughter of former crime-buster Mayor Rudy Giuliani who lifted five items from a Manhattan Sephora store worth a total of $100 deserves a little credit for bringing up the rear of the cosmetics crime wave.

On the other end of the beauty theft spectrum are organized retail crime rings, which target the products for resale on Internet auction sites. A Florida investigation called Operation Beauty Stop uncovered a crime spree in which $100 million worth of personal-care contraband had been stolen from retailers including Sweetbay (DEG), Target (TGT), and Walmart (WMT), and resold on eBay (EBAY) from a seller listed as Lola's Discount Warehouse.

The National Retail Federation warns against purchasing health and beauty products on such online auction repositories because their safety may be compromised. "Many health and beauty products on these sites may have expired or be spoiled, posing real health risks to the buyer," said Jospeh LaRocca, the federation's vice president of loss prevention.

While women may feel like they're getting robbed by L'Oreal for having to fork over $9 for a tube of Colour Riche Lipstick, they could pay a much higher price for a discounted version at auction. So stick with a legitimate distributor... because you're worth it.
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