Dave, I just bumped into a kind of fraud called “shoplisting”. What is it and how to merchants avoid being ripped off by shoplisters?
Thanks for the question. This is a new one for me too, shoplisting. Here’s the scoop:
Shoplisting is when someone obtains a legitimate receipt from a store, then steals the identical products and takes them back for a store credit or gift card. They then sell the gift card on the open market for pennies on the dollar.
Neat, simple, no pawnbroker to deal with, no hot merchandise on their hands, no fencing involved.
And, of course, completely illegal.
But is it pervasive? Well, you can’t go onto eBay and find auctions for receipts, but have a look at the gift card or store credit or gift certificate searches. Lots of matches, eh?
Some of them, I’m sure, are legitimate, but it seems likely that some measurable percentage of them are the result of shoplisting. It’s too easy, too straightforward, and too darn hard for eBay to police.
Read the listings, some are sure suspicious when you start to look at them in this light. I won’t point to specific auctions because the link will vanish all too soon, but almost all the sellers have 20 or less feedback ratings, and some of them are quite open about receiving, and returning, easily stolen items, like Roomba computerized vacuum cleaners. Are they the result of shoplisting? How are we ever going to know? But do you want to risk it?
In terms of how to avoid this, well, for more expensive items, I believe that RFID (radio frequency ID tags) are going to allow unique serial numbers on a per-item basis, and that’ll be tracked on receipts. If you buy a DVD player with serial number RX22332438C and you return one with the serial number RX22332478M, then you might just get to explain to the police what’s going on.