Retailers fight growing trend of return fraud, worry about impact on shoppers

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The National Retail Federation has released a survey that reveals the impact return fraud has had on area businesses. In fact, the president of the Indiana Retail Council is convinced the growing problem could soon impact shoppers.

“Return fraud is big and growing every year,” said Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council.

Return theft is blamed for a nearly $9 billion loss in 2012, 30 percent of which occurred around the Christmas holiday shopping season.

“I guess nothing these days really surprises me,” said Jamey Howland, a shopper.

The National Retail Federation surveyed 60 different stores.

“It does sound a little crazy. People have a little too much free time on their hands, I think,” said Chris Goodson, another shopper.

Of the retailers surveyed, more than 96 percent reported being ripped off by criminals who received refunds for stolen merchandise. Almost half of those stores reported receiving fake receipts.

“I’ve heard about fake receipts and stuff like that,” said Rich Lowrance, another shopper who was waiting for his wife who was shopping at Circle Centre Mall on Monday.

He said he and his wife try to avoid the return and exchange process altogether.

“I got her a couple of necklaces for Christmas, and she’s still got both of them,” he joked.

The survey also mentioned ‘wardrobing’—a term used for the return of special occasion clothing that someone wears before returning it for no good reason.

“They’re not doing it for their personal use. They’re doing it to resell,” said Monahan, who claims there are organized groups of thieves committing these crimes.

The criminal activity is expected to affect return policies, and Monahan is convinced shoppers may also suffer financially.

“Retailers can only absorb so much loss. There’s only so much wiggle room at that bottom line to deal with that, and eventually, in a competitive marketplace, you and I, and your viewers, are going to see prices rise because of those losses,” said Monahan.

For the first time, retailers also weighed in on online theft. Nearly two in 10 retailers said they have dealt with e-receipt return fraud.

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