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PINned Them As A Scammer

, , , , | Legal | April 1, 2019

(I’m running one of the cashier lanes. It’s late and not particularly busy, so I’m spending my time organizing the shelves. A customer comes up to me, wearing a hoodie with a hat under it.)

Customer: “Hey, are you working?”

Me: “Yep! Right there.” *points to my register and starts walking to it*

Customer: *arriving at the register* “How long have you been working here?”

Me: “Oh, a couple of months.”

(It’s an honest answer, though I intentionally omit the fact that I cashiered at another store a year prior to this job. The customer hands me a couple of prepaid debit cards. To prevent fraud, only debit cards and cash are accepted as payment for them. There is also a $5,000 limit on how much you can purchase in total, with each individual card having a $500 limit.)

Me: “All right, how much on these?”

Customer: “Five hundred.”

Me: “Okay.” *puts the first card in for $500* “And how much for the other one?”

Customer: “Five hundred.”

(I put the other one through, but at this point, I’m concerned that the customer may be falling for a scam; the reason we have a $5,000 limit on these cards is that they are an easy way for scammers to receive money. I decide to probe him to make sure this isn’t occurring.)

Me: “$1,000? That’s quite a lot. What’s it for?”

Customer: “Girlfriend’s shopping spree.”

(I brush aside concerns that he could be the victim of a scam and proceed to tell him the total. However, the oddity of that response ignites a bit of suspicion.)

Customer: “This is a credit card.”

(I know what’s going on, because I’ve heard about this scam before. The scam is to tell the cashier that their credit card will work if you hit the “cash” button twice, which is what you do to tell the register that you are being paid in cash, for the exact amount — a shorthand for typing in exactly the amount owed and then pressing the “cash” button. Of course, this button has nothing whatsoever to do with credit cards; he is trying to scam the store out of $1,000 by tricking the register into thinking it is getting cash. The way I decide to deal with the situation is to play dumb and attempt to run his debit card through correctly.)

Me: “Can’t do that. It has to be debit or cash.”

(The customer “swipes” a debit card. However, he intentionally does it sloppily so that the magnetic stripe reader will not successfully read the card.)

Customer: “Did you put it as exact cash?”

(It surprises me that he decided to put it that way, but rather than confront him on the matter, I pretend I didn’t hear.)

Me: “It looks like it didn’t read your card. Can you try again?”

Customer: *doing the same thing as before* “I’m telling you: you have to do exact cash.”

Me: *again, pretending I didn’t hear* “Here, let me see that.”

(I motion for his card, and he hands it to me. I swipe it correctly on the PIN-pad for him and then hand it back.)

Me: “There you go!”

(Defeated, the customer continues with the card already swiped. It asks for his PIN. He types something in, and the system reports that, of course, the PIN was incorrect. No surprises there.)

Me: “Ah, it says the PIN is wrong.”

(Without a word, he “tries” again; I am later informed by the customer behind him that he is actually just typing “8888” into the keypad every time. He allows the PIN entry to fail, not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR times. I am kind of shocked he would do this; some banks will actually lock out your debit card when this happens.)

Customer: “Why ain’t you running it as exact cash?”

Me: *feigning confusion* “Um, because it’s a card.”

Customer: “Well, it’s not working.”

Me: “Do you have another form of payment?”

(He thinks for a moment, and then eventually gives up and leaves.)

Me: “Have a nice day!”

(I’m proud to say this was my first and so far only encounter with a scammer while I was working as a cashier, and he got nothing. The next customer and I had a bit of a laugh about it.)

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