If you know anything about people addicted to hard drugs, you know that they will do anything to get money for their drug of choice. Some actually get rather clever to raise funds for their next hit. Nowadays, as the opioid epidemic rages on, dope fiends are utilizing a crafty,yet highly illegal scam, involving gift cards, to get money so they can score their fixes.
The scam is pretty simple. Desperate people steal from big chain stores (i.e. Walmart, Home Depot) and return the items to another one of the store’s locations. They do not have receipts, but the stores are more than willing to work with them. Instead of handing over cash for the items, the store will usually give the person a gift card amounting to the equal value of the product. In return, the scammer will then sell the gift card for a fraction of its value either online or at a pawn shop for cash. According to High Times, selling a gift card online will get the seller up to 80% the value of the card. Selling it on the street will only bring in 20% to 30% of the value.
The scam isn’t fool-proof. When returning items without a receipt, the returner is often required to show some form of ID. Big retail chains do this to keep track of how often people are returning items. The scammer won’t have any problems if it’s his/her first time doing it, but if they come back two or three times in a short period of time, they will likely be flagged for suspected criminal activity.
For some opioid addicts, this is an everyday thing. According to a Florida-based company called Retail Theft Analysis, those who know what they’re doing can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in a matter of months. The National Retail Federation has found that retail outlets experience an $11 billion per year hit due to “return fraud.” To combat the problem, stores are changing their return policies and steps are being taken so the authorities can track gift card transactions on the secondary market.
Nevertheless, people do get busted doing this scam and end up doing jail time, but that doesn’t deter addicts from doing it. “You don’t care how many charges you have, you don’t care what you’ve been through; you just care about the next one,” said Kristen Booth, a 23-year-old who has been arrested on multiple occasions for gift card crimes. “When you’re suffering from addiction, any length means any length.”