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Shoplifters May Face Civil Lawsuits as Well As Criminal Charges


CALIFORNIA – According to Susan Berfield of Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Home Depot is accused of using an alarming tactic in order to intimidate consumers into paying more money to Home Depot than they are actually entitled to. Two customers at Home Depot in San Leandro, California recently paid $1,445.90 for lumber they had loaded onto a cart. Before loading the lumber, they put gloves on, and when they checked out the gloves were not scanned. As they exited the store, they were stopped by a security guard and accused of stealing the gloves. They were then taken to a room and intensely questioned. Under duress one of the customers signed an agreement to stay out of the store for 90 days and provided his contact information. Within a week he received a letter from a law firm hired by Home Depot demanding payment of $350 to settle the claims for the gloves he was accused of shoplifting. A month later he received a second letter where they demanded $650 from him or face a civil lawsuit. Notably each pair of gloves retailed for $3.99. On September 5, 2013 the customer filed a class action lawsuit alleging Home Depot is "shaking down customers for arbitrary and unjust damages for shoplifting charges and using false threats of criminal prosecution."

It is important to note that there are laws in all states that permit retailers to recover damages from shoplifters. Though Home Depot is accused of using the civil laws to extort more money from people than they are entitled to, it is becoming more common for retail giants to attempt to recoup their losses that resulted from shoplifting. What this means is that if a person is accused of shoplifting, not only will they face criminal charges which may lead to a permanent record, but additionally, the retail store may use their state laws to recover the monetary value of merchandise allegedly stolen. Being sued civilly can lead to a monetary judgment being entered against an individual which will appear on loan and credit applications. Shoplifting will have serious consequences on many aspects of an individual's life if not properly and adequately represented.