EcoShredding Blog

Retail Store Thefts Target of Dumpster Divers

retail theft shreddingMost folks are pretty savvy now about shredding medical, tax, and personal identification documents, particularly since businesses are required by law to follow guidelines to protect consumers.

One of the business areas often overlooked is something both retailers and customers deal with daily: sales receipts.

Often discarded on-site by customers who don’t want the extra paper in their wallets, sales receipts are considered a gold mine by Dumpster divers, who have cost retailers billions of dollars each year though fraudulent returns and exchanges.

Recent examples include ongoing cases of “return fraud” at retailers in Phoenix, Arizona, where residents are being urged to discard of their receipts at home, or “at least tear up” their receipts before tossing them into the trash on-site at the retail establishments, to help deter criminal activity. Several Phoenix retailers cite a growing problem of fraudulent returns, in which individuals target trash cans and Dumpsters, retrieve discarded receipts, then enter the stores and gather items in the store and “return” them for cash at the service desk.

In Washington State this year, law enforcement officials have determined that Dumpster-diving thieves may be more organized than originally thought. A backpack carried by a woman who was apprehended on suspicion of “return fraud” contained not only receipts, but a list of “easy to steal” items from each store.

Thieves often use small-dollar items to avoid suspicion (in one case, a suspect “returned” a case of diaper rash cream!), but police say repeat offenders can rack up high dollar amounts quickly. If it can be proven that their fraud totals more than $750, they can be charged with a felony.

In the meantime, customers and retailers must find ways to work together to protect each other from fraud. Retailers must continue to follow shredding guidelines in regard to credit applications and other paperwork containing sensitive customer – and employee – information, but may also want to look at ways to encourage customers to participate in shredding receipts rather than carelessly tossing them in the trash.

With our on-site shredding services, EcoShredding provides peace of mind to businesses of all types and sizes, from small “mom-and-pop” single-location shops to franchise businesses, and more. Call us today!

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