SHARING THEIR HAUL: Shoplifters shamelessly brag about thefts online

WRENTHAM, Mass. — Shoplifters are shamelessly bragging online about what they’ve stolen from retailers, and Boston 25 News found there are several websites devoted to the bizarre fad.

Boston 25 News Anchor Elizabeth Hopkins took an in-depth look at the compulsion to shoplift to see why people steal, and talked to local police about who is really paying the price.

Make-up and clothing to sunglasses and bath products are all laid out in photos and videos you may have seen online, but those hauls didn’t come from gift giving or spending cash. They come from another corner of the internet.

Those items are stolen.

“I could load up shopping baskets and pretty much walk out with it,” a member of Kleptomaniacs Anonymous said.

On Reddit, there’s even a page for shoplifters. Tens of thousands of people are members and show off and exchange tips on how to steal and get away with it.

“The word gets out. It’s easy. There’s likely no consequence,” Wrentham police Deputy Chief Bill McGrath said.

Hopkins spent time with members of Kleptomaniacs Anonymous to better understand the motivation.

“It’s almost like it was something to do,” the members, who didn’t want to be identified, said. “It’s not like it made me happier, but, it was nice getting things for free. And it was something that, I guess I would say, was good at the time.”

The member said it wasn’t about the monetary gain.

“The things I took I could have bought. And that’s actually true with a lot of these people here,” the member said.

Terrence Shulman, of The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding, started the group. He began shoplifting at age 14 or 15 when his mother and alcoholic father divorced, and he became the man of the house.

“This was one of the ways I was soothing myself or feeling like entitled to get a little extra for myself and it just kind of snowballed,” he said.

He said there’s no single reason people shoplift, but said in almost all cases shoplifters believe theirs is a victimless crime.

“It’s very easy to think you’re not hurting anybody,” Shulman said.

McGrath said he sees the problem first-hand and said other shoppers often pay the price.

“There are people who aren’t doing the right thing,” he said. “And they’re forcing all of us who are doing the right thing to pay more.”

McGrath said a large part of the problem is that many stores are unwilling to go after the thieves or, or even allow employees to contact police. He said he’s not sure why that is, but believes many stores won’t deal with the issue until it begins to significantly impact their profit, and that’s a problem.

Schulman said the person he hurt most deeply weren't the stores, or his friends and family.
It was himself.

Over the years he eroded his self-esteem and put his career at risk.

Now, he wants to see other avoid the same pitfalls he succumbed to. And with this group, he is.

“I feel compelled to be here to tell my story,” the member of Kleptomaniacs Anonymous said. “If I can compel people who are a lot younger than me to not make the same mistakes, then that’s great.”

You can find more information about the Shulman Center here.