The Retail Equation’s Verify Return Authorization System is one way stores track returns. The company won’t disclose its clients but claims 10 of the top 100 retailers use its service.
Here’s how it works: When you hand over your receipt or ID to make a return, the system analyzes your return behaviors—frequency, dollar amounts, whether you had a receipt—and predicts whether or not you’re making a legit transaction.
Depending on the answer, you will successfully complete your return or be warned that you’re making too many or be banned from making returns for a period of time. You can be turned down if your behavior indicates fraud or abuse of the system, even if you follow the rules. So if you genuinely have several returns to make—say you received duplicate housewarming gifts or numerous underwhelming holiday presents—you may find yourself on the outs at your favorite store.
The Retail Equation says that it doesn’t aggregate information across retailers, report to credit bureaus, or accuse customers of theft or fraud. But if you want to see your file, you can request a copy of your Return Activity Report (theretailequation.com) and dispute errors.