Shoplifting crimes have increased in recent years, but offenders do more than keep the stolen items to themselves. The savvier ones make money off the nicked goods by returning the items to another store for a refund.
Called refund fraud, it’s a deceptive practice that not only affects businesses but can also lead to serious legal repercussions for the perpetrators in South Carolina.
Fraudulent refunds, according to law
Per South Carolina law, it’s unlawful for anyone to give a false or fictitious name or address – or to give another person’s address without permission – to obtain a refund from a business establishment. It’s not unusual for someone attempting to commit refund fraud to conceal their real identity, especially if they’re dealing with stolen goods, so this law would apply if they’re caught. This is a misdemeanor offense.
The law also makes it a crime to obtain a refund by using an altered or falsified motor vehicle license or similar other identification.
The penalties for fraudulent refunds
If a court convicts a person of giving a false or fictitious name or address to obtain a refund, the person faces up to 30 days of imprisonment and $200 in fines.
However, the offense of obtaining a refund by presenting false or altered identification leads to much more severe penalties. The penalties are based on the value of the refund being fraudulently obtained and whether the offender had any prior convictions:
- Value less than $2,000: The offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months of imprisonment and $2,500 in fines on conviction.
- Value is $2,000 or more: The offense is a felony, punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and $5,500 in fines on conviction.
- Two or more prior convictions for the same offense, regardless of value: The offense is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment.
Refund fraud is a serious offense in South Carolina that carries significant legal consequences. Businesses must be vigilant, and individuals should be aware of the gravity of such actions. If you find yourself accused of refund fraud, it is important to seek legal counsel to navigate the complexities of the law and protect your rights.