Believe it or not, one of my favorite past jobs was being a grocery store cashier. I loved the quick pace, short interactions, and the relationships built with regulars.
I even got a kick out of customers throwing tantrums and took the brunt of their anger for their mistakes or the store’s shortcomings. After Target’s security breech in 2013, there was an avalanche of reasonably frustrated customers dealing with the repercussions of fraud and/or protecting their assets by changing all their accounts.
Since then, much of the country has implemented a chip-embedded card system. The intent is to make fraud harder, but it can’t protect against all nefarious actions.
Some Sam’s Club members at a Missouri store are outraged. After numerous complaints about fraudulent purchases appearing from Sam’s Club and the neighboring Walmart, a young cashier has been arrested for seemingly running an elaborate — though ill-thought-out — scam.
For a while now, most card-based transactions occur without ever handing the cashier your plastic. Becoming mainstream in the late 90s and early 2000s, this slowed down fraud occurring from workers stealing your card information.
It’s not mentioned if this Sam’s Club hasn’t adopted such a system or if the cashier’s lane’s transaction box “conveniently” didn’t work, but one cashier still managed to get her hands on people’s cards. Then, while they were distracted with their purchase, she would either “forget” to hand the card back or return a fake card to the customer.
Customers would then leave and not realize until later that there were extra purchases, their card was missing, or that it didn’t work. The thieving cashier was caught on camera making the slip on multiple occasions — one time slipping the stolen card into her shoe!
While the cashier’s sleight-of-hand may have been impressive, what she did next probably made it easier for her to be identified and captured. The Sam’s Club cards she stole had MasterCard logos, allowing them to be used as regular credit cards.
The cashier used the cards to make purchases at her own job or at the Walmart next door. As Walmart owns Sam’s Club, this made investigation and the collection of evidence very easy.
While this appears to be an open-and-shut case, consumer fraud is usually harder to track and often goes unnoticed by the consumer for too long — making prosecution harder. Anyone who has fought fraudulent purchases or experienced identity theft knows how painstaking and frustrating it is to put your affairs back in order.
Therefore, officials have stressed that being vigilant about protecting your assets in the first place is key to staying ahead of criminals. Still, it’s estimated that 46% of US consumers have been victim to credit fraud in the last five years!
While protecting the physical card may be habit, as we shift to a digital consumer market, there are vulnerabilities that we have to be more careful about. More than embarrassing pictures an browser histories, an unlocked phone is a direct link to everything in your wallet.
Officials also flag online shopping and banking from public computers or unsecured networks. Be sure to shred unneeded financial statements, don’t just throw them away.
Despite every store having their own credit-based store cards, officials suggest that carrying a limited amount of plastic provides better protection. Certainly less plastic means less chances of credit card debt, but it also means you’re more likely to notice a missing card and are less vulnerable if your wallet is lost.
At the same time, it’s suggested that you use credit when making purchases as credit accounts tend to have better fraud protections for consumers. That choice should be weighed against your financial situation as it’s easy to get into unmanageable credit debt when you condition yourself to swipe on credit.
It’s natural — although dangerous — to be distracted in the checkout line. You’re trying to make sure you got everything, you’re thinking about the next thing you have to do, and you might even be juggling kids or recovering from an annoying shopping interaction.
When a criminal sees opportunity, however, that is when they will strike. Keep yourself and your family safe by adopting safer consumer habits including keeping a watchful eye on your card statements.
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