Whether you call it return fraud or refund fraud, it causes a huge amount of loss to the retail industry every year. Return fraud occurs when someone returns an item that they didn’t purchase, or makes money off of a return in some way. It’s been a tactic used by shoplifters for a very long time, and it’s still being used today because it works so well for them. Your retail theft prevention plan may be great in traditional shoplifting scenarios, but are you paying attention to other methods they will use to commit thefts? Think about it, do you think return fraud is as risky for the thief as standard shoplifting? There is much less risk involved with return fraud because the thieves are not leaving the store with any merchandise, just your money. Regardless of what your store sells, small refunds add up fast, and small businesses can be hit hard by this kind of activity.
Thieves know you are looking for the methods that shoplifters use when stealing, so they have to get creative. Refund fraud also relieves them of having to deal with all kinds of anti-shoplifting equipment. A couple of dead giveaways that identify someone that is in the process of return fraud are picking up or searching for receipts, and looking at a receipt while looking at merchandise on the shelf. When I see someone looking for receipts, I immediately know what they have in mind. On numerous occasions, I have seen customers digging through the trash can and walking through the parking lot looking for receipts. They usually look for receipts with merchandise that was purchased with cash, so they will get cash when they return the items, not store credit.
You wouldn’t think they would make it so obvious, but right after they pick up the receipt from the parking lot, they will come in the store and try to compare the item numbers on the receipt with the item numbers on the shelf labels. They do this because in order to receive a refund, the items need to match exactly what is on the receipt. When they find the items, they bring them right to the customer service desk to get a refund.
Most stores have a system in place that will limit the amount of no receipt returns per customer. The customer’s identification, such as a driver’s license is usually keyed into the computer. This allows the retailer to keep track of how many times that person has returned merchandise without a receipt, and if they exceed the store’s allowed amount, the return will be denied. The problem with this system, is that it doesn’t account for customers that are returning merchandise with a receipt.
This is where your retail theft prevention plan should come into play. The best defense for refund fraud is your team. One person can’t see everything that happens in the store all the time. It is everyone’s responsibility to take the initiative to stop shoplifting. Your employees should be trained to be on the lookout for behaviors like these, and offer customer service in order to deter any dishonest activities.
For more information contact us: Retail Theft Prevention or call 1.770.426.0547