(CNBC) A shadowy world of criminals has been targeting major retailers around the country to take advantage of lenient store-return policies and fuel their drug addictions, a CNBC investigation has found.
And they use an unlikely currency to pull off the crime: gift cards.
For years, thieves have taken aim at big-name stores, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target and Walmart, by stealing items and returning them at another store without a receipt. They typically receive a gift card for the stolen goods and then sell it to a pawn shop or secondary store at a discount.
While retailers say they are doing everything they can to reduce return fraud overall, both law enforcement and the drug users themselves say the scam is relatively easy to pull off.