After a weak holiday, stores get tough on returns

Bad news if you're unhappy with the blender your aunt got you for Christmas: You might have a tough time returning it. In an effort to crack down on fraud (The National Retail Federation estimates that 1 in 10 returns are bogus), stores are getting tough on returns. Even with a receipt, you might have to settle for store credit, and the store also might need to see some ID. If you return multiple items to the same store over a short period, you may be flagged as suspicious.

There are a few common forms of return fraud. One common strategy is to buy an article of clothing for a special occasion, wear it once, and then return it. Some people consider this a form of thrift but make no mistake: Purchasing an item with the intent of using it and then returning it is fraud.

Another strategy that people use is to steal an item from one store and then "return" it to another for a "refund". Some criminals even purchase an item, keep the receipt, then stroll back to the store, pick an identical item off the shelf, and head to the customer service desk for a "refund".

Be sure to check the return policy and keep track of the gift receipt if your friend or relative was kind enough to provide one.

And if you can't get a refund and don't want store credit, there's always eBay. But if you're persistent and willing to visit the store, call customer service to complain if you don't get a refund, and even write to the CEO, you should be able to get your money.

Also, take a look at Marshall Loeb's 4 tips for gift returns.

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