Stores battle fraudulent returns during holidays


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's described as one of the busiest shopping days of the year -- the day after Christmas when people are returning those gifts that just didn't work. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday return fraud is also up from last year.

Out of 60 retail companies surveyed, representing grocery, small retail, discount and department stores, an estimated $1.9 billion will be lost to return fraud -- $3.8 million of that will be lost within the holiday season alone.

It's estimated 5.5 percent of all holiday returns this year will be fraudulent, and not all stores even know when it's happening.

It's a growing problem some stores are taking action against.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil smith said there are some things the bigger stores, like Best Buy and Target, are doing to cut back on fraudulent returns, but he said small mom-and-pop-type stores can also do things to avoid getting scammed.
"Sometimes stores may not even be aware they've been a victim of theft because the person may have a receipt, a fraudulent receipt," Smith said. "Some stores, when you bring an item in to be returned, they'll scan it right when you get into the store. They'll scan it and sometimes they can tell if the item had been purchased or not."
Last week, a man in Denver bought a Play Station 4 -- only to find two bags of rocks packed in the box. Lucky for him, he discovered the bags before giving the gift, and was able to exchange it after four days of disbelief from employees.
"I never stole anything in my life," Igor Baksht said. "The most criminal thing I've done is some driving tickets."
Best Buy has a security guard at the front door, checking items as they come in and out.

In a statement, Best Buy said it, "captures valid ID information on returns to help prevent fraudulent returns and deter criminals from attempting to turn stolen goods that can be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars into cash."
Smith said this is a great way for smaller stores to take action as well.
"Get some picture ID, and if you're not comfortable with it, the picture doesn't look like that person, just give it back and refuse to give the refund," Smith said. "Quite often, if they're a legit person, they don't mind giving you their identification, write their driver's license number down on the identification that way you can better protect yourself."