With holidays right around the corner, now's the time to update yourself on stores' new return policies. In this economy, retailers are on their guard for fraud more than ever before, and they're protecting their interests through stricter holiday return policies.

So what does this mean for you? Basically, you can expect retailers to be a little more snoopy. In an effort to prevent fraud returns, retailers will be asking for personal information like your cell phone number, e-mail address, or home address. They may even scan your driver's license.

Keep in mind that part of this snooping is just for marketing purposes. However, a store uses your information to make a kind of customer profile so that they can log all of your purchases. That way, when you go to return an item, they can see that it's something that you did, in fact, buy. It also helps retailers keep a lookout for fraudulent returns. For instance, if a customer goes to the Gap and returns a hundred dollars worth of items without a receipt, the store logs that. So the next time that customer returns, he'll be required to produce a receipt for the items he wants to return.

While this does change the way stores in your local mall do business, these changes really don't affect online stores much. For one thing, online stores already have the personal information needed to track purchases; many require customers to create online profiles before they can even shop on the site. For another thing, online stores don't receive nearly as many returns as a retailer in the mall would. Online transactions are quick, so stores are able to account for items in stock faster and get returned items sold sooner. For these reasons, you can expect your online return policies to remain the same.

So what's the best thing you can do for your friends and family this holiday season? Check with stores on their return policies, and save receipts. It'll be less of a hassle for your loved ones and retailers alike.