Consumers scour shelves and websites for the perfect holiday gift, but sometimes even the best plans don't work out. While some stores loosen their return policies during the holiday season to allow for an easier return process, Better Business Bureau warns that some stores could be tightening their return policies due to an increase in return fraud.
In a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, retailers estimate that 4.6 percent of holiday returns are fraudulent, costing the retail industry an estimated $2.9 billion.
Return fraud comes in many forms and includes purchasing merchandise for short-term use and then returning the item, returning stolen merchandise, and using reused, stolen or falsified receipts to return merchandise for a profit.
To crack down on return fraud, many retailers are adopting stricter return policies, such as requiring receipts and making customers show identification when returning items. Some businesses only allow in-store credit for returns.
Some tips to keep in mind when returning gifts this holiday season:
- Know and understand the seller's return policy. Most return policies will be listed on a company's website or on the back of the receipt.
- Keep original packaging. Some stores may require products be returned in original purchase condition, unused or un-opened.
- Bring identification and credit cards. Some retailers will ask for identification when making a return, as well as the credit card used to purchase the item.
- Don't expect cash back. If you don't have the original receipt for the item you're returning, chances are you will only receive store credit or be allowed to exchange the item.
- Read the warranty first. If a gift you received is damaged or defective, read the warranty. In some cases, warranties exempt retail stores from product liability and require consumers to mail the product directly to the manufacturer in order to receive monetary refunds, credit or product replacement.