JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The National Retail Federation is putting a price tag on the amount of return fraud they've already seen this year, and the number is in the billions.
This is a consumer alert that all business owners need to be aware of.
Consumer experts say merchants need to be on the lookout for counterfeit receipts and items that are being returned that have already been used.
"As a business, we are constantly on guard against theft and fraud," local business owner of Meow and Barks Traci Evans said.
Evans is just now learning about the latest figures released from the National Retail Federation.
The retail group puts the price tag of return fraud at nearly $9 billion this year.
Consumer experts say crooks are using the holiday shopping season as a cover, exchanging stolen goods for cash and using counterfeit receipts.
Some retailers are reporting an increase in shoppers returning items that have already been worn.
"I would suggest to all business owners that when you are there processing the sale, go over the return policy with the customers as well," Evans said. "Even though our return policy is written, we always verbally say it and say the window is very small."
The National Retail Federation says 65 percent of surveyed business have been victimized by "return fraud" this year. Now 75 percent of the country's retailers are fighting back by asking customers for identification when making returns, especially for items without a receipt.
Evans said some business owners are asking for cellphone numbers and email addresses at the time of their transaction, gathering as much customer information as they can.
"We have had fraudulent transactions that have come back to us, and those really hurt small businesses," Evans said. "Because once you get the money in, normally you are utilizing the money to pay other things to get more businesses. So when you have a fraudulent transaction come back, it really impacts a small business."
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