Everyone loves getting a good deal when shopping, but what happens when you’re a little too overzealous and take it to an extreme with a tactic like return fraud? Return fraud is when a person purchases an item and then uses its receipt to return another item of lesser value.
A 2018 study conducted by the National Retail Federation, says that 11% of retailers’ annual sales were returned, and 8% of those returns are likely to be fraudulent. While it seems like a victimless crime as far as actual people are concerned, it’s still a crime that is being committed that could lead to harsh consequences.
Situations that could be considered return fraud include:
· Purchasing an item and using it for a short period of time before returning (also known as wardrobing or “free renting”)
· Returning stolen merchandise for a full refund
· Placing a higher price tag on something before returning it (also known as price switching)
· Purchasing an item at a discount retailer to return to a higher-end retailer
· Purchasing an item with the intent to return the same previously used or broken item for a full refund (also known as switch fraud)
Florida Socialite Charged With Return Fraud
In a recent Florida case , a Miami socialite, Meghana Rajadhyaksha, was found guilty for purchasing over $130k in designer purses from retail giant TJ MAXX and also purchasing similar knock-offs from Amazon where she swapped the designer tags out and returned the Amazon knock-offs to TJ MAXX to receive a full refund.
In Rajadhyaksha’s case, she got off without jail time due to her battle with depression, but will have to pay TJ MAXX back, in addition to paying court fees and thousands of dollars in other legal costs, is on a year of probation with an ankle monitor, and will have to do 1,600 hours of community service. However, in many cases this same situation could result in two or more years in federal prison.
What Are The Consequences of Return Fraud?
In legal terms, retail fraud is considered theft or robbery and as Florida Statues state, “Any person who requests a refund of merchandise, money, or any other thing of value through the use of a fraudulently obtained receipt or false receipt commits a misdemeanor of the first or second degree.”
This crime can be punishable by jail time, house arrest, probation, and massive fines. Retailers are cracking down on those committing return fraud and are pressing charges to those they catch more often. If you or someone close to you is being charged with return fraud, it’s wise to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney like Russell Spatz. Russell has over 40 years under his belt protecting those who have been charged with crimes like this one. Give his office a call today at 305-442-0200 to schedule a consultation.
Statutes & Constitution :View Statutes : Online Sunshine, 31 July 2019, www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0800-0899/0812/Sections/0812.017.html.
Steiner, Ina. “Returns Fraud Remains a Serious Threat to Retail.” EcommerceBytes, 27 Nov. 2018, www.ecommercebytes.com/2018/11/27/returns-fraud-remains-a-serious-threat-to-retail/.
Weaver, Jay. “Socialite Spared Prison for Purse Scam. She’ll Do 1,600 Service Hours, Repay T.J. Maxx $166,000.” Miamiherald, Miami Herald, www.miamiherald.com/news/local/article233070007.html.