How business scams work at stores, gas stations, etc. — and how to avoid them: Internet ScamBusters #290
Today we have a real treat for you. Today’s issue is on
business scams. However, we first want to share a valuable new
resource which answers so many of the questions about Internet
safety we hear day in and day out.
It’s called “Internet Safety: Keeping Your Computer Safe on the
Internet,” and it was created by our friend Leo Notenboom.
We’ve highly recommended Leo’s website,
target="_blank">Ask-Leo.com, many times
in Scambusters. Leo writes clear, easy-to-understand and
trustworthy answers to many of the technical questions we often
hear from subscribers. In fact, there is no better resource on
Leo’s new ebook covers “the things you must do, the software
you must run and the concepts you need to be aware of –
to keep your computer and your data safe as you use the Internet,”
including firewalls, viruses, spyware, mobile security and
physical security. And did we mention that it’s free?
OK, on to what you’ll find in the rest of today’s issue…
Business scams hit hard at retailers trying to survive the
downturn in the economy. But sharper eyes and a few simple
security steps can eliminate many of them. This week, we
highlight the 5 most common pitfalls.
However, we think you’ll like visiting this week’s issue of
What’s New in Scams? — first.
And before we begin, we encourage you to take a look at this
week’s most popular articles from our other sites:
Fireworks, Twilight and Night Photography: Photographing
Fireworks, Lightning and the Moon: An Interview With Jim
Zuckerman: Learn href="http://www.7photographyquestions.com/audio-podcast/"
target="_blank">expert tips on night photography in this new
Cleaning Your House the Natural Way with Natural Household Cleaners:
target="_blank">Environmentally friendly, natural cleaning brands
for those concerned about your family’s health and the environment.
Money-Saving Tips to Get You Through The Hard Times:
target="_blank">Budget tips to help you make it in today’s
Let’s get started…
The 5 most common business scams
Business scams cost owners hundreds of millions of dollars,
probably billions, every year. And with the economy staggering,
the scammers find rich pickings, especially among smaller firms
struggling to survive.
If you run a company or maybe are thinking about going into
business, you can improve your chances of success by knowing
the games these tricksters play. Many business scams are aimed
at people in the retail business, especially convenience stores.
It’s not only how much money the business scammers steal that
hurts. The disruption to your business, the need for extra
vigilance and security measures and the cloud of suspicion it
throws over customers and employees can also cause a big,
In this issue, we identify 5 of the most common business scams
used in stores. In a later issue we’ll focus on other small
businesses that scammers target. And, if you’re not in business
yourself, please pass these tips on to someone they might help.
1. The Money Changing Flimflam
In this scam, the tricksters aim to distract you while you’re
making change. They target convenience stores, banks, gas
stations and even grocery store checkouts. Sometimes, they work
with an accomplice.
Either way, they try to confuse their victims into handing over
too much change. Usually, they start with a big bill — $50 or
more — and their trick involves swapping the notes, passing
money back and forth until the change-maker loses track of
A good tip is to keep your hands out of reach of the customer
while making change. Call a halt if you think you’re being
flimflammed. Bring in an associate both as a witness and to
help backtrack and double check your counting.
2. Switching Price Tickets and Barcodes
There’s no secret to how this one works. Individuals and gangs
scout out stores where they can easily swap price tags or
Either they put a low price tag on a more expensive item and
aim to get through the register with a real steal, or they put
a higher-price tag on a previously bought low-cost item and
return it to the store for a big cash refund.
Counter this by making it difficult to remove tags and codes
and make sure staff checks article descriptions as they come up
on the register.
3. Hiding Items in Packaging
Do you sell things in boxes? Can the boxes be opened in the
store? Answer “yes” to both of these questions and know that
scammers have you in their sights.
If you make it that easy, they’ll open the boxes and either
replace the contents with something much more valuable, or
they’ll add something to the existing contents — like putting
perfume inside a pair of shoes.
In one case we know of, scammers placed a computer inside a box
that was supposed to contain a cheap portable barbecue.
The answer here is to seal boxes where possible and just put a
sample on display. If you can’t do this — as with shoes, for
example — check the items carefully at the register.
Put a sign up saying it’s company policy to do these checks and
you’ll probably stop this business scam dead in its tracks.
4. Passing Bogus or Stolen Checks
This is one of the fastest growing scams. Computer software
makes it cheap and easy to print checks. And thieves use stolen
checkbooks quickly before owners discover the theft.
More and more stores now refuse checks, preferring cash, credit
or debit cards. Interestingly, the US is way behind many other
parts of the world, especially Europe, where checks are hardly
used in stores — so much so, that offering a check would
immediately arouse suspicion!
If you do accept checks then, obviously, the main thing is to
try to confirm the payer’s identity, usually by inspecting a
You can also minimize risk by limiting the amount you accept
for payment by check or insisting that, over a certain amount,
you won’t release items until the check is cleared.
5. Employees with Too Much Cash in Hand
A recent court case told how employees at a gas station
reprogrammed certain pumps so they would only accept cash
purchases, which, also, the register did not record. When
anyone paid in cash, they kept the money, getting away with
$60,000 before someone rumbled their scheme.
Pocketing cash that doesn’t go into the register is one of the
most common scams in all types of sales operations, especially
if the bill doesn’t involve opening the register to make change.
Of course, keeping a sharp eye on inventory and matching that
with receipts should do the trick, but sometimes that’s simply
not possible, especially day to day.
Tackle this one at the root by using security cameras, having
an automatic customer counter at the door and posting a note on
registers that says: “Please ask for your receipt.”
Some employees might not like this but that’s usually only if
they’ve got something to hide. Anyway, these security measures
will protect them as much as they protect you.
Making your small business work is a challenge, especially when
the economy is shaky, like now, but applying the simple rules
in this article will cut business scams and make all the
difference. Here’s to success!
Time to conclude for today — have a great week and for our US
readers, a happy July 4th!