Criminals use a wide variety of methods to profit off of fraudulent store returns, and the public pays the price.

Who Is It Targeting: Retailers of every size

What Is It:  Making money by returning items that were stolen, borrowed, or paid for with counterfeit methods

What Are They After: There are a wide variety of ways that thieves use returns to make a buck. They might have stolen the item they’re returning for cash, “borrowed” something expensive like a new dress to wear to a party then returned it after wearing, or even used counterfeit bills or stolen credit card info to pay for the item before taking it back for a cash refund.

While the potential victims, in this case, are rather small—namely, retailers and business owners—the truth is everyone becomes a victim. When businesses become part of the reported $2 billion in stolen return scam funds just at the holidays last year, we all pay the price through higher consumer prices and lost sales tax revenue.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • If you’re a retailer, the best steps involve prevention; have a store policy for returns in place, and make sure your employees stick to that policy.
  • Train your employees on avoiding counterfeit money and stolen payment methods.
  • As a consumer, safeguard your credit cards, debit cards, and online accounts.
  • If you know someone who’s engaging in returns fraud, let them know that it affects everyone, not just the store.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here.

For full details of this scam check out this article from Chicago Tribune.