Gift Card Fraud Spikes

GIFT CARDS are easy for dishonest employees to exploit, according to a recent article in The New York Times. The Times reported that a sales clerk at a Saks store was discovered ringing up $130,000 in false merchandise returned, and then siphoning off the money onto a gift card. According to the article, it is a lot easier to put a gift card in your wallet than walk out of the store with a huge wide screen TV. With retail theft now estimated at an astounding $36 billion, retailers are taking all sorts of measures to try and contain it.

The article reports that much gift card theft is quite straightforward. This fraud often involves young clerks and relatively small amounts of money. The clerk will do a fake refund of merchandise, and then with the amount refunded, use their registers to electronically fill gift cards, which they take.

Sometimes when a shopper buys a gift card for let’s say $50, the clerk will give them a blank gift card and put the $50 on one of their cards.

The most common type of employee theft, a type that virtually every retailer is painfully aware of, is “sweathearting.” This is where a checkout clerk will fail to ring up merchandise of family or friends. The sad truth about employee theft is that when an employee steals, he or she gets about $1,890 in the theft. When a shoplifter victimizes a store, the thief gets an average of only $438.