The opiate crisis has a new enemy, and it’s coming from an unlikely source. Gift cards. Yep, you read that right, fraudulent and stolen gift cards have become the newest acquisition for those looking to buy drugs on the black market. The process is seamless for some and, at this point in time, the process of eliminating the threat is pretty difficult. So, what is to be done? And how is it happening?

From Gift Cards to Opiates: How the Opiate Crisis Marches On

It starts pretty simply. Someone will be browsing a store, innocent as all get out. Then, next thing you know they’ve tucked a few items into their bag or jacket and walk on out. Most of the time, no one really notices. It’s not a victimless crime, but it sure is easy to miss— especially with the holiday rush hitting the stores. But it’s what happens next that is really the kicker. These stolen items will be returned for a gift card, which is then either traded to the dealer, sold at a cheaper price to a pawn shop, or sold to the highest bidder for cash to buy the drugs.

The bigger the retailer, the better the chances

Big box stores are seeing the worst of it. Imagine it. Especially during the holiday season when stores are full to the brim with people, and products are flying off the shelves. When it comes down to it, often it is just plain hard to keep track of what goes where and who bought what. Theft protection services are there, and employees do their best. But, sometimes things just slip through the cracks.

But, when they do— those items turn into a larger deficit for the retailers. They are left to cover the cost of stolen goods, ramp up security, place new employees, and take their focus off of active customer service and engagement. In short, this gift card scam has been a top priority for retailers who are losing money at their expense.

$9 to $15 billion a year in losses

A survey conducted in 2017 by the National Retail Federation tracked down the losses of a number of companies. In doing so, they found losses of $9-15 billion a year and fraudulent gift cards and store credit at a minimum of one location.

So, what does this mean for the opiate crisis?

It means that users are upping their game. They’re finding new ways to obtain the funds they need to further the epidemic. The whole process from start to finish will eventually be crippling to retailers— especially small retailers who cannot balance the loss and the fraudulent charges financially. In short, the opiate crisis has found a new and unlikely victim. And they are suffering quite a loss.