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Scam artists like technology, too

My Opinion
Scam artists like technology, too
Scam artists like technology, too
Stephanie Taylor Ferriell
Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]

It was a Saturday morning, the time when the grocery store is jam-packed. I was a relatively new cashier, working at the Corydon JayC after I’d graduated college and before I landed my first reporting job. I had been put on the first register, the busiest line.

I was ringing up a huge cart of groceries for a customer. She had purchased pork and beans, a sale item. She’d only picked up two cans in the three-for-a-dollar deal. Both rang up at 34 cents. She was watching her total and immediately stopped me, demanding I make a correction; one of the cans should only have been 33 cents, she argued.

I’ll bet you this much: That woman will never fall victim to a scam like the one currently targeting customers at Southern Indiana Walmarts.

It works like this: A person (police say they’ve identified one perpetrator as an Asian male) takes Walmart gift cards to the self-checkout aisle. He scans the cards then leaves without paying. The next customer in line – if she or he is not paying close attention – ends up paying for the cards.

You say it couldn’t happen to you? I would argue you are most likely wrong.

The reason Walmart is so incredibly successful is because they have mastered product placement and marketing. We’ve all done it. We run in to grab a few things and, before we can make our way to the checkout, we have a cart full. It’s hard to keep track of how much all that stuff adds up to. Let a scammer enter the picture and you see where I’m going.

These con artists aren’t dumb. They don’t typically put hundreds of dollars on cards at a single checkout. Just $20 or $30. Relatively small amounts most of us wouldn’t notice.

Some of you will say this is another reason to not utilize self-checkouts, and I can’t argue with that. I know lots of people don’t like them, but I do. I like to ring up my purchases in a certain order, and I most definitely like to pack my own groceries, putting them into my reusable bags the way I like.

Those of us who choose to use self-checkouts, especially at stores without reward cards (which start a new transaction upon being scanned), need to be cautious. We’ve become so used to having technology do the math for us that most of us don’t even bother to attempt a running total in our heads.

The best approach (your bank account will thank you) is to make a list before you shop, then stick to it. I remember my mom poring over the IGA and JayC ads each week, writing her grocery list, listing the sale price beside each item. Seems so old-fashioned nowadays. And, admittedly, it is.

But, this practice could end up saving you a substantial amount. And I’m not just talking a penny on a can of beans.