Examining Your Examination Technique

, , , , | Learning | May 17, 2019

(I am teaching multiple sections of a class, and there is a common time assigned for all sections to take exams. Some people have been allowed to register for another class that meets at that exam time, so I arrange to give them the exam as a separate group just before the main exam period. After giving the exam to the small group, I notice that one exam contains a name that doesn’t look familiar. I check our online homework system, and the name is there, too. However, the name has never been listed on the class roster. After contacting the company that runs the homework system, I have the following exchange with one of my students.)

Me: “I’ve noticed that your homework account logs in, gives the correct response to every question on the first try, and then logs out within five minutes.”

Student: “I know the material very well.”

Me: “I’ve noticed a different account that immediately chooses the ‘give up and see the solution’ option for all questions, logs out, and then your account logs in one minute later. For every assignment.”

Student: “It’s a coincidence.”

Me: “The other account has the same IP address as yours.”

Student: “Someone must be stealing my WiFi.”

Me: “During breaks, your account switches to an IP address in [Hometown]. The other account’s IP address changes to the same one at the same time.”

Student: “They must be spoofing it.”

Me: “The company says that this other account was paid for with the same credit card as your account.”

Student: “They stole my credit card information.”

Me: “You are part of the early exam section. Somebody handed in an exam with the same name as this account then, and one with your name was submitted during the regular section.”

Student: “I just decided to come to the big section that week. I have no idea about the other exam.”

(Obviously, I failed this student, and he promptly appealed the decision to my department head. Then to the dean’s office. Then to the university committee. Then to the provost. I spent two months on hearings, summaries, and rebuttals which were a waste of everybody’s time. The student retook the class, graduated, and went on to medical school!)

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Data Protection Protects You From Callers Like Her

, , , , , | Legal | May 16, 2019

(I am working in the collections department for an energy supplier when I get a call from a woman regarding a letter she says she received. She says she has a question about it. She gives me a reference number and I pull up the account.)

Me: “I’ve got the account up. May I ask your name?

(The customer gives me her name and it is the same as on the account. I then ask her to confirm address and DOB, both of which match what is on the account.)

Me: “Thank you for confirming those details. What was your query?”

Customer: “Yes, what is this letter all about?”

Me: “There is a balance on the account. It needs to be paid. You owe [amount].”

Customer: “No, I don’t.”

Me: “I’m not seeing any payments since [date].”

Customer: “No, you don’t understand. This isn’t my account.”

Me: “Your name is on the account and you confirmed the address.”

Customer: “No, no. This letter isn’t for me. This is my friend’s account. My name is [Different Name].”

Me: “I’m sorry, madam, I can no longer discuss the account with you without the customer’s permission. Is the customer there?”

Customer: “You just broke the data protection law. You disclosed my friend’s details.”

Me: “Actually, madam, you committed fraud.”

Customer: “No, I didn’t. I never said I was the customer. You broke the law; now you’re going to lose your job. I’m going to report you.”

Me: “Actually, madam, when I asked what your name was, you told me it was [Customer’s Name], when I asked what your address was, you said it was [Customer’s address], and when I asked you to confirm your date of birth, you told me it was [Customer’s DOB]. You pretended to be your friend, which is fraud.”

Customer: “No, I didn’t. If you heard that, that’s your fault. I’m going to report you!”

Me: “You are welcome to report this to the data commissioner. I’ll get you the details if you like. We are obligated to report this incident, as well, and will send the recording of this call to prove what was said.”

Customer: “How dare you say that to me?! Get me your manager!”

(I got my manager, who took over the call. My manager promised to listen to the call and arranged to call the woman back once she had done so. Later that day, my manager came and spoke to me. She listened to the call and confirmed that the customer definitely committed fraud – she clearly said her name, address, and DOB were the customer’s. My manager gave me an anti-fraud form to fill in so it could be passed on to the police. During the call, the woman gave me her full name, and she gave my manager several phone numbers when they arranged the callback, one of which was a work number. My manager also got the woman’s address because she wanted me to write her a formal apology for accusing her of committing fraud. All these details went on the form we sent to the police.)

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In Receipt Of Stolen Goods

, , , , | Right | May 15, 2019

(I am working as a cashier at a chain retail store with a pharmacy. A woman comes in with a return. Keep in mind that there is a lot of receipt fraud happening on a daily basis. People have been stealing receipts out of the garbage and stealing products that are listed on the receipts in order to return them for money. They’ve also been using high-dollar coupons on products and then returning the items a few days later to get the full value back. Therefore, when a customer comes in with a return, I have gotten into the habit of studying the receipt to check for coupons used, the date of the purchase, the location of the purchase, or anything that seems fishy. A woman is returning a tube of Cortizone-10, as well as a few other items on her receipt. I look at the receipt and I immediately notice that a $1 manufacturers’ coupon was used on the Cortizone-10. I look at the box of Cortizone-10 being returned and I see an unused $1-off coupon, still fully intact, in plain view, stickered on the outside of the box. So, I try using logic:)

Me: “Excuse me, ma’am. I see that a $1-off coupon was used on this Cortizone-10.” *points to the coupon still on the box* “Is this the coupon that was used?”

Customer: “Yeah…”

Me: “Ma’am, that’s not possible. There’s no way that we would leave the coupon on the box after scanning it. We peel it off, scan it, and keep it in the register.”

(And yes, we add them up at the end of the night. The customer looks at me as if I have just spoken Greek. She doesn’t get angry or upset, but she seems completely confused as if she doesn’t understand that I have just caught her. She doesn’t seem to understand the mechanics behind my explanation about how coupons are processed. Chances are, she probably didn’t even notice the $1 coupon that was processed on her stolen receipt.)

Customer: *in a daze* “Oh… Well… I don’t know why they did that.”

(I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. I considered the possibility that maybe some other $1 coupon was used in the original transaction. I asked her to put in her phone number to see if her rewards account number matched the account number on the receipt. If she could prove the receipt was hers, she’d get her refund, simple as that. She tried two different phone numbers and, sure enough, neither of them matched the rewards account that was used on the receipt. I declined the return because there was enough evidence that this receipt wasn’t hers and the products were stolen. I apologized and told her that I could not process the return. She said many stores have been giving her problems about it and she wasn’t sure why. She left the store. She wasn’t upset, but she seemed very spacey and confused about the situation. I was almost convinced that someone else had put her up to this and that she was completely innocent and unaware of the criminal activity taking place. I pondered how somebody who was in this mental state could even find and steal the correct products that were listed on a receipt. Where do these people come from?)

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A Reversal Of Fortune

, , , , | Legal | May 14, 2019

(I am working on my pizza delivery route. The guy ahead of me stops at the red light, and then makes the right turn and stops at the end of a line of cars. I check to make sure the coast is clear, make the turn, and come to a complete stop well before the guy’s bumper. Suddenly, the guy in front of me looks back, looks me dead in the eyes, and shifts into reverse. He guns the motor, surges backward, and rams my front bumper. Then, of course, he gets out screaming and yelling about his neck and about how he’s going to sue me for every penny I’m worth for ramming him.)

Me: *totally calm* “That’s not what happened, and you know it.”

Scammer: “Oh, yeah? And who’s going to believe that I put my car in reverse to hit you?

(I just smile calmly. The police arrive and the statements are given. The whole time the scammer is ranting and raving about how he’s sustained an injury and damage to his car. I just remain calm throughout the entire thing, even going back to the car to retrieve a small item to hand to the cops.)

Scammer: “HEY! What the h*** do you think you’re doing?! Are you seriously trying to bribe the f****** cops?!

Me: “Not at all. I was simply handing them the memory card to my dash cam.”

(There was a beat of silence, and then the scammer went dead white. The long and the short of it? He got in BIG trouble.)

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The Fluster Buster

, , , , | Right | May 14, 2019

(I work in an electronic retail store as a manager. Over the past year, we have been hit by a scammer doing fraudulent returns on items he has stolen. Basically, all of the managers have been tricked by him, including me. I see him come into the store and immediately greet him, and he luckily doesn’t recognize me. It would be easy to simply call him out and refuse his return but it’s a slow day.)

Me: “Hello, how can I help you?”

Customer: *said to the person he is on the phone with* “This girl is standing here looking at me like she doesn’t even want to help me! I’m just a big inconvenience to her!”

(I remain calm, as this is part of what he does: try to fluster the manager.)

Me: “Sir, I don’t believe I have given you any reason to think you are an inconvenience. If you would let me know what I can help you with, I would be more than happy to assist you.”

Customer: “I have a return. I bought these laptops for a summer camp, but we ended up not needing half of them. I already talked to [Store Manager] and she approved it.”

Me: “Great! I can certainly help you with that. Can I see your receipt?”

Customer: “I don’t have it, but as I already said, I met with [Store Manager] and she said that you would take care of me. You’re going to do that, right? I would really hate to have to bother your bosses and let them know you aren’t helping me out.”

(I know he is lying. Our manager would never approve such a large return without a receipt.)

Me: “Sure, let’s go over to the return desk and I’ll get it started.”

(He continues to talk to the person on the phone, again stating that I am giving him attitude and that he is going to have to have a talk with the store manager about how rude I am. I ignore him, start to scan the items, and call the store manager at home. She picks up after a few rings.)

Me: “Hi, sorry to bother you on your vacation, but I have a gentleman here who says that he talked to you about doing a receiptless return on about $3,500 in laptops.”

Store Manager: “I absolutely did not talk to anyone about a return. Is this that same guy that keeps coming in?”

Me: “Yep, it sure is. Just wanted to confirm.”

(The entire time I’m having this conversation, the customer isn’t paying attention and is still bad-mouthing me on the phone, trying to be intimidating.)

Me: “Sir, I just got off the phone with [Store Manager] and she has no idea who you are. Honestly, I’m surprised that you keep coming back and running this same scam. You’ve actually already pulled this same thing with me a year ago, so I know exactly what you are doing.”

(The customer goes pale and starts to back away. He tries to push the cart full of stolen laptops with him. I grab it firmly.)

Me: “You can leave those here, as I know you stole them. I have you on camera and I will be immediately calling the police.”

(He bolted out the door. One of my coworkers who was nearby chased him down and wrote down his license plate. I called the police and gave a report. We later found out that upon searching his house they found close to $50,000 in stolen merchandise from stores all over the city. He had also been flagged by numerous loss prevention teams in other stores.)

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