A scheme involving gift cards from major retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Home Depot Inc. Target Corp. and Lowe's Cos. Inc. is being used to pay for opioids, CNBC reported Dec. 7.
People are stealing merchandise from one of these retailers and returning it at another location of the same retailer without a receipt, according to the report. Often retailers give gift cards for items returned without a receipt, which the person will then sell to a pawn shop or secondary store to obtain cash to buy drugs. Those cards are then resold, usually on an online exchange, CNBC reported.
Robert Moraca, vice president of loss prevention at the National Retail Federation, said that opioid addiction can cause a person to steal from retailers, although theft is not a problem that is unique to opioids.
"Illicit drugs have been the catalyst for illicit activity for decades," he said. "It's not an exclusive problem that just came up because of opioids."
Moraca said retailers have reported an average loss of $726,351 per $1 billion in annual sales due to organized retail crime, citing NRF's 2017 Organized Retail Crime Survey. The survey, released in November, is based on information from 63 retailers that participated anonymously. Based on the survey, Moraca said 67% of retailers have reported an increase in organized retail crime.
Home Depot spokesman Matthew Harrigan said the company has been involved in lobbying for bills that curb gift card-related retail crime. He said the company has changed its gift card policy in the last year to only give store credit for returns without a receipt and to check identification when store credits are redeemed at checkout.
Target, Wal-Mart and Lowe's did not respond to request for comment.