Hampshire retailers warned over New Year refund scam

SHOPPED Fraudsters are known to target stores in a bid to get bogus refunds in January
SHOPPED Fraudsters are known to target stores in a bid to get bogus refunds in January
Louis Makai. Picture: Sussex Police

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SHOPS are being given help to fight back against fraudsters who try to rake in cash in a New Year refund scam.

The faces of so-called ‘refund-fraudsters’ will be sent to around 140 shops in the city so they can be recognised and turned away.

It comes as stores are warned that January is the worst time for refund crime, which hits shops hard after the festive period.

Criminals are known to steal clothes and other items from stores, and then taking advantage of shops’ more lax rules after the festive period to claim refunds on their haul.

But a campaign by the Portsmouth Business Crime Reduction Partnership (PBCRP) is taking measures in a bid to stamp out the practice completely.

There are thought to be between 50 and 100 suspected refund fraudsters operating in and around the Portsmouth area.

Those who have been convicted of fraud will be on the list but those who have not been through the courts will be left off this time.

PBCRP’s crime manager, Neeta Dhorajia, said: ‘We have around 144 members, in the city centre, many in Southsea, and some in North End too.

‘We will be circulating a list of faces to all our members so they are aware of what these people look like.

‘Even now some shops don’t demand receipts, and things are more lax over the Christmas break with people exchanging gifts etc.

‘We saw people move away from retail crime and move onto internet crime and things like that, but they seem to be coming back to it.

‘I think they believe it’s something that’s easy to get away with, but we want to ensure it’s not.

‘I also think they believe they are not hurting people by stealing from shops, but they are – shops need the sales to survive.’

Cascades Shopping Centre manager Rhoda Joseph said the practice has a huge impact on stores, and can make the difference between them surviving or going out of business.

She said: ‘People don’t realise that business crime isn’t victimless.

‘What this does is put operating costs up, which are then passed onto the customer, or a shop could end up making staff redundant to try and save money.

‘Doing something like this is a very good idea, because we have to make retailers aware that there are a group of people out there who are doing this, and what they look like, so we can get rid of this altogether.’