Refund Fraud
We all know that refunds are a fact of life when it comes to retailing. 

To protect the interests of both the retailer and the consumer, the ACCC clearly outlines consumer guarantees with regards to items that are found to be faulty, unsafe or don’t perform, or look like, the sample product or description provided by the retailer.   Consumer guarantees do not apply, however, where a shopper has changed their mind, found the item cheaper elsewhere or simply decided that that they could actually use that money to better purpose.  

With the festive season just around the corner, there will be plenty of timely reminders in the media about unlawful ‘no refunds’ signs and reminding retail businesses to revise and align their policies to ensure compliance with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission standards.

What network retailers are telling us, however, is that their refund policies are often heavily in favour of a positive customer experience and actually make it almost too easy for consumers to achieve a refund or store credit for returned items.  And that’s just the honest customers. 

The dishonest ones will always find new and inventive ways to play the system and retailer reports put refund fraud firmly on the rise.  Outlined below are just some of the recent trends for obtaining fraudulent refunds:

  • Double-docketing - shoplifting with a receipt.  In the extreme, offenders will usually work in pairs filling two trolleys with identical items, then leaving one trolley in store and proceeding to pay in full for the other.  Almost immediately, one offender will use that receipt to return to the store and collect the second trolley, often paying for an additional item upon exiting to deflect suspicion.  The offenders will then visit another store within the chain and request a refund for the items, essentially obtaining one trolley of goods for free;
  • Barcode scamming - printing/copying barcodes for low priced items at home and affixing those labels to high priced items in store.  The fake barcodes are then scanned through a self-service checkout before the items are returned to the store for a credit at the original higher price;
  • Repeatedly attempting refunds without receipt across multiple stores within a chain until successful;
  • Buying new merchandise and using that receipt to return an older or damaged version – essentially updating their goods at the retailer’s expense.

In this age of online retailing, the convenience of in-store refunds are one of the advantages that bricks and mortars still have over their cyber competitors.  We understand that finding the balance between keeping the customer happy and implementing loss prevention procedures to protect the business is difficult - What has worked for you? 

Share your experience on preventing refund fraud with the network by contacting Regan Mills, our Project Liaison on

REPORT NOW: Crime Stoppers Retail Hotline 1800 961 969

About the NRA SafeCity Network

On March 1, the NRA launched a 12 month trial of the NRA SafeCity Network in Brisbane aimed at increasing collaboration and insight between retailers to reduce retail crime in Brisbane CBD and Fortitude Valley. If the Brisbane trial proves successful, the program may be rolled out nation-wide. Find out more >

This project is supported by Brisbane City Council and received funding from the Commonwealth as part of the Safer Communities Fund.

Have queries? Contact David Stout:
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