Despite millions invested in prevention efforts, more retailers  than ever are falling victim to organized crime rings -- with many increasingly discovering their stolen inventory for sale online, according to a new survey.

Of 99 shop owners polled nationwide across all retail sectors, 71 percent said they had seen a rise in organized retail crime within the last 12 months, up from 48 percent in 2006, according to the National Retail Federation. Nearly all rated the problem between important and severe.

About three-quarters of the victims said they later identified stolen goods at online shopping and auction sites, compared to 61 percent that found them in flea markets, pawn shops, and other brick-and-mortar locations.

Unlike petty theft or shoplifting, organized retail crime involves coordinated groups that steal large quantities of merchandise from a warehouse or storage facility or during deliveries. The stolen goods are typically sold off to finance larger criminal enterprises, the trade group said.

According to Joseph LaRocca, the National Retail Federation's vice president of loss prevention, organized retail crime rings are sophisticated and quick to adapt to tighter store security measures. As a result, companies are being forced to allocate more resources to curbing large-scale theft -- with as many as one in 10 investing more than $1 million this year alone on preventative measures, the survey found.

In April, the National Retail Federation and federal law enforcement officials launched the Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Network, a secure online database designed to track retail crimes by sector, product, and location. The network, known as LERPnet, enables retailers to share information on major criminal activity in real time.

In just two months, it's already logged 16,000 incidents from its first 45 retail participants. According to LaRocca, the network forges a stronger partnership between retailers and law enforcement agencies that offers a real chance at "stopping these criminals dead in their tracks."