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Check Your Receipts - Cash Back Scam Warning Email

Outline
Message warns shoppers to always check their receipts before leaving the check-out at Sainsbury's and other UK stores because many people are being caught out by a scam in which unscrupulous cashiers add unauthorized cash back requests to transactions and pocket the cash rather than give it to customers.



Brief Analysis
The warning is unsubstantiated. There is no credible evidence to support the claim that such a scam is regularly or commonly taking place in the UK. The UK based message is nothing more than a mutated version of earlier US based warnings that have circulated since 2004. The US versions are also unsubstantiated and unsupported by any credible evidence.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.



Last updated: November 22, 2012
First published: 24th November 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example
Subject: CHECK YOUR RECEIPTS/THIS IS NOT A JOKE PLEASE READ

CHECK YOUR RECEIPTS BEFORE LEAVING THE CHECK-OUT


I bought a bunch of stuff, over 150, & I glanced at my receipt as the cashier was handing me the bags. I saw a cash-back of 40. I told her I didn't request a cash back & to delete it. She said I'd have to take the 40 because she couldn't delete it. I told Her to call a supervisor. Supervisor came & said I'd have to take it.. I said NO! Taking the 40 would be a cash advance against my Credit card & I wasn't paying interest on a cash advance!!!!! If they couldn't delete it then they would have to delete the whole order. So the supervisor had the cashier delete the whole order & re-scan everything! The second time I looked at the electronic pad before I signed & a cash-back of 20 popped up. At that point I told the cashier & she deleted it. The total came out right. The cashier agreed that the Electronic Pad must be defective.

Obviously the cashier knew the electronic pad was defective because she NEVER offered me the 40 at the beginning. Can you imagine how many people went through before me & at the end of her shift how much money she pocketed?

Just to alert everyone. My co worker went to Milford , Sainsburys last week. She had her items rung up by the cashier. The cashier hurried her along and didn't give her a receipt. She asked the cashier for a receipt and the cashier was annoyed and gave it to her. My co worker didn't look at her receipt until later that night. The receipt showed that she asked for 20 cash back. SHE DID NOT ASK FOR CASH BACK!

My co-worker called Sainsburys who investigated but could not see the cashier pocket the money. She then called her niece who works for the bank and her niece told her this. This is a new scam going on. The cashier will key in that you asked for cash back and then hand it to her friend who is the next person in the queue.

Please, please, please check your receipts right away when using credit or debit cards!

This is NOT limited to Sainsburys; they are one of the largest retailers so they have the most incidents.

I am adding to this. My husband and I were in Sainsburys and paying with credit card when my husband went to sign the credit card signer he just happen to notice there was a 20 cash back added. He told the cashier that he did not ask nor want cash back and she said this machine has been messing up and she canceled it. We really didn't think anything of it until we read this email.

I wonder how many "seniors" have been, or will be, "stung" by this one????

To make matters worse ...THIS SCAM CAN BE DONE ANYWHERE, AT ANY RETAIL OR WHOLESALE LOCATION!!!

BEFORE LEAVING THE CHECK-OUT........CHECK YOUR RECEIPT!!!!!

THIS COULD HAPPEN ANYWHERE. CHECK YOUR RECEIPT BEFORE LEAVING THE STAND. I'VE SEEN PEOPLE DO JUST THAT. NOW I'LL START! PASS THIS ON TO YOUR FRIENDS, KIDS, LOVED ONES.



Detailed Analysis
This widely circulated email advises shoppers to always check receipts before leaving the checkout because of a cash back scam that it claims is currently taking place in Sainsbury's stores and other outlets in the United Kingdom. According to the warning, unscrupulous cashiers are regularly stealing money from unsuspecting customers by making unauthorized cash back requests during card transactions and keeping the cash for themselves. The message warns that, unless shoppers carefully check receipts, they might not realize that an unrequested cash back has been added to their transaction. The message describes an incident of the scam that supposedly occurred at a Sainsbury's store in Milford in which a shopper discovered a 20 cash back on her shopping receipt that she did not receive or request.

However, there is no credible evidence to suggest that such scams are currently taking place in the UK. If the scam described was as common and as widespread as implied in this warning email, there would certainly be news and police reports available that discuss the issue. In fact, there is no mention of such scam attempts currently taking place in any credible UK based media outlets.

In fact, the warning is nothing more than a variant of earlier US warnings that have circulated in various forms since 2004. The UK based variant substitutes UK shopping outlet Sainsbury's for Walmart, which "featured" in the original US versions. The currency has also been changed from dollars to pounds. As the following 2009 US based example reveals, the UK and US versions are otherwise virtually identical:
It happened to me at Wal-Mart a month ago. I bought a bunch of stuff, over $150, & I glanced at my receipt as the cashier was handing me the bags. I saw a cash-back of $40. I told her I didn't request a cash back & to delete it. She said I'd have to take the $40 because she couldn't delete it. I told her to call a supervisor. Supervisor came & said I'd have to take it. I said NO! Taking the $40 would be a cash advance against my Discover & I wasn't paying interest on a cash advance!!!!! If they couldn't delete it then they would have to delete the whole order. So the supervisor had the cashier delete the whole order & re-scan everything! The second time I looked at the electronic pad before I signed & a cash-back of $20 popped up. At that point I told the cashier & she deleted it. The total came out right. The cashier agreed that the electronic pad must be defective. Obviously the cashier knew the electronic pad was defective because she NEVER offered me the $40 at the beginning. Can you imagine how many people went through before me & at the end of her shift how much money she pocketed?

Just to alert everyone. My co worker went to Milford DE Walmart last week. She had her items rung up by the cashier. The cashier hurried her along and didn't give her a receipt. She asked the cashier for a receipt and the cashier was annoyed and gave it to her. My co worker didn't look at her receipt until later that night. The receipt showed that she asked for $20 cash back. SHE DID NOT ASK FOR CASH BACK. My co worker called Walmart who investigated but could not see the cashier pocket the money. She then called her niece who works for the bank and her niece told her this. There is a scam going on. The cashier will ask for cash back and hand it to her friend who is the next person in line.

Please, Please, please check your receipts right away when using debit cards. The store has the cashier under investigation now. We can only pray that she is caught very soon.
Thus, it seems that some prankster has used the earlier US version as a template to create a variant to fit the UK. The person who crafted the UK version of the "warning" did not even bother to change the name of the city where one of the scam attempts supposedly occurred, apparently realizing that "Milford" could fit both a US and a UK context.

Moreover, the US versions of the warning are also unsubstantiated. There is no credible evidence to suggest that such scams have taken place at Walmart stores in the United States.

While Point-of-Sale procedures may vary somewhat from place to place, most modern systems require customers to swipe or insert credit or debit cards themselves and confirm transaction amounts before the sale is completed. In fact, many systems now require the customer to initiate cash back requests themselves via the card transaction device.

Of course, as with any arena, some shop cashiers may be dishonest. It is conceivable that in some circumstances an unscrupulous operator could add a cash back request to a transaction and get away with it because an inattentive customer inadvertently confirmed the request via the card machine. However, despite this possibility, it is highly unlikely that scams like the one described are regularly and commonly taking place as implied in these warning messages. As noted above, these warnings have been circulating for several years in the US and have now "jumped the pond" to the UK. Thus, if such scams were really taking place regularly and in many different locations as suggested in the warning messages, law enforcement authorities along with outlets such as Walmart would have taken steps to shut them down and prosecute offenders long ago.

In essence, the advice to check receipts while still at the checkout is probably well worth heeding. If fraud attempts or - much more commonly - genuine mistakes do occur they are of course best sorted out at the time of the transaction. Customers should also take care that the figure that they are asked to confirm during card transactions is what they expected. That said, however, sending on spurious, totally unsubstantiated scam warnings such as the one discussed here is unlikely to be at all helpful.

Finally, it should be noted that some versions of the warning come tacked on to another, very outdated and inaccurate message that warns that a card from PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) informing householders about a package delivery is actually a scam designed to trick them into making an extremely expensive premium rate phone call. Such a scam did take place back in 2005, but was shut down soon after it commenced and has not reoccurred.

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References
Wal-Mart Cash Back Scam
PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) Premium Rate Scam Warning

Last updated: November 22, 2012
First published: 24th November 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer