According to NRF’s 2013 Return Fraud Survey completed by loss prevention executives at 62 retail companies, the industry will lose an estimated $8.76 billion to return fraud this year, and $3.39 billion during the holiday season alone. Overall, 5.8 percent of holiday returns are fraudulent, up slightly from 4.6 percent last year.
“While coverage of this issue paints return fraud as one of the ‘less severe’ retail crimes, the fact of the matter is that returning used or stolen items, or even using false tender to purchase items is fraud, period,” said NRF Vice President of Loss Prevention Rich Mellor.
“Recent efforts to combat fraudulent activity are slowly starting to work, but criminals are becoming more savvy and technologically advanced in their methods, making it even more difficult for retailers and law enforcement to keep up with the growing problem.”
According to the survey, nearly all (94.8%) retailers polled say they have experienced the return of stolen merchandise in the last year, and 69.0 percent report that they have experienced the return of merchandise purchased on fraudulent or stolen tender. Additionally, 29.3 percent have found criminals using counterfeit receipts to return merchandise.
Employee return fraud or collusion with external sources is also a big problem for retailers: nine in 10 (93.1%) report they’ve dealt with this issue in the past year. For the first time, NRF asked retailers about their experiences with return fraud and a connection to organized retail crime groups: 60.3 percent have experienced this in the past year.
One of the biggest issues for retailers is the practice of ‘wardrobing,’ or the return of used, non-defective merchandise like special occasion apparel and certain electronics. Many companies have employed specific tactics to help curb this unethical practice, and are beginning to see the fruits of their labor: 62.1 percent report having been victims of wardrobing, down from 64.9 percent last year.
The survey found 15.5 percent say they have dealt with e-receipt return fraud. And, as online sales continue to grow, 82.5 percent say they allow customers to return merchandise purchased online in their stores.
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