Return fraud represents a $12 billion criminal enterprise in the United States, where perpetrators range from organized crime syndicates to generally law-abiding shoppers who may regard an occasional lapse in ethics as harmless.
Siras, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nintendo of America, has helped fight return fraud by developing technologies that can track products — and validate their return and warranty eligibility — by scanning their bar codes and serial numbers at the point of sale.
More recently, the company has compiled a “Gallery of Retail Fraud,” which illustrates actual examples of the many and often creative ways criminals take advantage of retailers and manufacturers through the fraudulent return of CE, IT and appliance products. Among the practices:
• “Brick-in-box” returns, in which thieves replace a product with a worthless “brick” of similar size and weight. The original carton is repackaged, shrink-wrapped and returned as new for a full refund;
• “Trade-in programs,” in which individuals replace newly purchased products with older items; and
• “Retooling,” in which the replacement item is crafted to weigh the same as the purchased product. The practice is believed to stem from Internet blogs which incorrectly indicated that retailers and vendors only weigh returns, rather than inspect the contents inside.
Siras’ series of traveling exhibits demonstrate the often ingenious forms these return scams take, as seen in the accompanying photos. For more information, contact the company at [email protected] or visit www.siras.com.