We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Retail Fraud?

By Sandi Johnson
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
MyLawQuestions is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At MyLawQuestions, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Retail fraud is a crime committed by an individual or group of individuals against a business that offers items for sale to the general public. Such crimes relate to obtaining merchandise without paying for the item, fraudulently returning items to obtain an undue refund, or otherwise defrauding a retail establishment of their rightful revenues. The particulars regarding what constitutes such crimes varies from one jurisdiction to the next.

Not all crimes of theft or misrepresentation constitute retail fraud. Small thefts are typically charged as petty theft, meaning shoplifting or similar minor charges. Large thefts and frauds of several thousands of dollars are charged as larcenies. Retail crimes classified as fraud generally fall somewhere between petty theft and larceny. In some jurisdictions, crimes involving retail fraud must occur during hours when the establishment is open for business with the general public. Crimes occurring outside normal operational hours, on the other hand, classify as larceny or burglary.

In the United States, each state and each subsequent jurisdiction determines at what dollar value or retail price a theft becomes an act of fraud. Likewise, each jurisdiction also determines exactly what acts constitute retail fraud. In some states, this crime includes worthless or dishonored checks; unauthorized or fraudulent use of credit cards; organized groups engaged in shoplifting or petty theft; as well as shoplifting of high value items, employee theft, or misrepresented return scams. Depending on the specific jurisdiction, such crimes may be misdemeanors or felonies.

The primary difference between general theft of goods and retail fraud lies in the value of items stolen and the method by which the defendant operates. In the case of theft by retail employees, the demarcation lies in taking advantage of an employers’ trust and employee privilege. The deceptive nature of such a crime, in most jurisdictions, constitutes retail fraud regardless of dollar value. Loss to the retail establishment in terms of monetary damages merely determines if the crime will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Retail customers commit similar crimes which fall under the same premise of fraud and are therefore subject to similar criminal charges. Switching price tags to get a lower price, removing price tags to claim outright ownership, or shoplifting merchandise worth more than state-imposed dollar limits are all examples of retail fraud committed by customers. In addition to these crimes, customers also commit retail fraud when they return items under false pretenses with the intent of getting a fraudulent refund.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon327138 — On Mar 26, 2013

I intended to leave the building with items valued under $25, without paying for them. However, I was not able to leave and was apprehended before exiting. Would this still be case of retail fraud? I would consider it attempted but not a charge of the retail fraud. Could someone tell me if I'm correct and should I fight this case?

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.