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What happens if I unknowingly buy stolen goods online?

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2023 | Criminal Defense

In Illinois, the legal consequences tied to buying stolen goods or properties, even unknowingly, are significant. However, the rise in consumer interest in online marketplaces and second-hand sales adds a layer of complexity to this scenario. The challenge now is discerning the authenticity of your purchases. How do you make sure you are not unknowingly buying stolen products or property?

How do you ensure the legitimacy of your purchases?

The definition of stealing is clear-cut – it happens when someone intentionally takes control of stolen items or interferes with someone else’s belongings without permission. The key here is the “knowingly” part. When you intentionally engage with stolen items, the legal troubles start.

Follow these practical guidelines to safeguard your purchases and ensure their legitimacy:

  • Verify the seller’s reputation: Delve into reviews and ratings from other buyers. A seller with a solid reputation is less likely to be involved in shady dealings or stolen goods.
  • Request proof of ownership: This could come in the form of a receipt, original packaging or any documentation confirming their ownership of the item. Legitimate sellers should readily provide such evidence.
  • Be cautious of unbelievable deals: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Exercise caution when you encounter significantly discounted items – they may be tied to stolen goods. Cross-reference prices across various platforms to ensure they align with the market value.
  • Check for serial numbers: Ask the seller for these numbers and take the time to verify their authenticity. Utilizing online databases to cross-check serial numbers can help confirm whether someone has reported the item as stolen.

Whenever possible, opt to meet the seller in a public location for the exchange. This adds an additional layer of accountability for the seller, ensuring a secure transaction for both parties.

What if I unknowingly bought stolen items?

In such a situation, the legal consequences generally hinge on whether authorities can prove that you knew or should have known about the stolen nature of the items. If they believe you were unaware, the focus might shift towards assisting in the investigation and returning the goods to their rightful owner.

Otherwise, you may face legal consequences. Penalties for buying stolen property vary depending on the offense’s degree and the stolen property’s value. They range from Class A misdemeanors to Class X felonies. Repeat offenses can further elevate the severity of the charges.

Seeking legal advice promptly can be instrumental in safeguarding your rights. They can help ensure a fair legal process and provide information that can protect your interests. Knowledge is key to making informed decisions and avoiding unintended legal ramifications.