Every year, it's the same. No matter how hard people try, there's always that one Christmas gift you have to return. Maybe you received two of the same exact coffee makers, or maybe that blue sweater was two sizes too small. Regardless of your reasons for returning an item to the store, there's a scam going around to watch out for.
Consumers aren't the only ones who are vulnerable in this scam. Retailers are taking a hit, too. According to The Counterfeit Report, a consumer protection company, scammers are trading real products with fake ones to conduct fraudulent gift returns.
The scam works like this: First, scammers buy legitimate products, such as high-end lotions and perfumes. Next, they purchase a low-end counter product. The two products are then swapped out, placing the low-end product in the high-end product's original packaging, which is then returned to the store for the full purchase price.
Under normal circumstances, employees at retailers might catch on to the opened packaging and minor changes to the product's appearance. But, with the rush that follows the holiday season, employees are rushed to move quickly through the line, which doesn't leave much time for thorough product inspection.
So, who wins and who loses when all is said and done? The obvious answer is that the scammer wins, while retailers eat the cost of the lost merchandise. However, there are also other victims that take a hit in this scam - it could even be you.
As retailers crack down, returning legitimate items may be more of a hassle. Especially if you don't have a receipt. And, you could also wind up with one of those fraudulent items when unsuspecting retailers put them back on the shelves.
To protect yourself, use extra caution when shopping for the next several weeks. Watch out for packaging that appears to have been opened, and compare the product against other products like it if you can. Examine the product for differences in texture, smell or color to see if anything different stands out.
And, if you have to return an item you received as a gift, keep the tags on and the packaging intact. If you can, try to track down a receipt. This should at help to make the return go more smoothly.