‘Friendly fraud’: Online retailers are grappling with new forms of digital deception

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Retailers have been hit by theft-related fraud for years at their stores but, as online sales proliferate, digital fraud has grown exponentially recently.

It’s an abiding retail maxim that the customer is always right. The credo tends to work well for the retailers that follow it — except, of course, for those occasions when the customer is actually wrong, deliberately.

Retailers have long dealt with theft-related fraud at their stores, but newer forms of digital deception have proliferated in recent years amid higher online sales and improved security techniques at bricks-and-mortar stores.

Farishta Zarify, owner of Off Runway Gowns, a high-end eBay dress boutique based in London, Ont., recalls the time she sold and then shipped a gown without requiring that the customer sign to confirm receipt of the item.

“The person said that they didn’t receive it,” she said. “I was willing to give the person’s money back, because it could have been true. It’s not likely, but it could have been true.”

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