Last week, Thomas Frudaker was arrested on suspicion of returning a computer without all of its components to a Walmart in Yuma, AZ. But, turns out, it wasn’t Frudy’s first rodeo — the 23-year-old had pulled the same stunt at 1k other Walmarts across the country, authorities say.
This would make Frudaker a modern day Butch Cassidy and an obviously exceptional bandit, but this type of thievery (return fraud) is an increasingly common problem for retailers — both on and offline.
A crime so stupid it was smart
Authorities later stated that Frudaker had defrauded more than 1k Walmart stores across the country over 18 months — which (if accurate) means Frudaker swindled more than 20% of Walmart’s 4,761 American locations.
By repeating a simple pattern 1.) buy hardware, 2.) secretly remove valuable components, 3.) return the gear for full price — Frudaker cost Walmart an estimated $1.3m, police say.
Return fraud is a racket on the rise
Walmart isn’t the only retailer wrestling with this problem. Across the industry, retail fraud is a $17B problem.
Just this month, a couple was sentenced to nearly 6 years in jail for stealing $1.2m worth of electronics from Amazon — claiming false defects to receive free replacements.