Did you get the email message about cash back scams? The one that says it’s true and wonder if it is urban myth or chain email? Is it possible to have a cash back charge on your debit purchase and you never see the cash back? Absolutely, find out how a Target cashier was caught scamming, how my friend found out about her cash back purchase and what you can do to protect yourself.
Visiting a social networking site, a discussion was being held over paper versus plastic, and I am not talking about bags, but writing checks versus using your debit card to make purchases. The person who started the discussion was upset because someone took too much time in line writing a check for their purchase, recording the check and moving on. They thought this was “rude” and that checks should be done away with while shopping. I disagree, simply because of the dangers of using a debit card – dangers that can include cash back scams.
The other day a friend of mine sends me an email, which at first I thought was just another “forwarded” message that makes the rounds and that quite often is a scam or electronic “urban myth” that I could ignore. The funny thing about this particular message was at the bottom, she said, “No joke, I checked my receipt after shopping at Wal-Mart and the amount was $20.00 over.” Again, part of the “urban myth” but in this case it was actually true.
What was this email about? Cash back scams. Apparently she had made a purchase at Wal-Mart and at the register was told that the do it yourself card scan was broken and the register person would “run the card” for her. After getting home and looking at the receipt to record the purchase she realized that she had been charged $20.00 too much, a charge that was seen by the use of the “cash back” label on the receipt. She contacted Wal-Mart and is happy with the resolution of the problem, however, thought she should tell others exactly how easily a cash back scam could occur.
The funny thing is she had received a forwarded message warning about the same type of scam, but Target was the store in question. She ignored it, wanting to check it out on Snopes.com but there was no need; she found out that in her circumstances it was true. I would much rather have found out that it was forwarded junk mail by a well meaning friend or family member.
Maybe this email warning regarding debit and credit card cash back on purchases has some level of truth to it. In January 2009, a Target employee was arrested for working with a friend an accomplice as a result of scamming the store for over $1,000.00. The scam was two part; first ringing up items and then doubling coupons to that the price was less (and in most cases free) and secondly using a the cashiers Target debit card and requesting cash back on a purchase, and receiving greater than the amount of the requested. For example they would do a cash back request for $20.00, but the cashier would give her accomplice $40.00. Pretty stupid when you think about it, at the end of the shift the drawer is not going to total, do that enough times and you are bound to come under suspicion.
Debit cards have become the normal method of completing a purchase while shopping both online and in brick and mortar stores. Many people, like those on the discussion board, think it’s rude to use anything else. Others just like the convenience of swiping their card and being on their way. Admittedly, I use my debit card on a regular basis, because I am more likely to spend if I carry cash and I hate writing checks. It is also easy, fast and you can get cash back making a trip to the bank (and those hefty ATM charges) unnecessary. But consumers need to remember that debit cards do not have the same levels of protection against theft and fraud that credit cards do. Not all “plastics” are equal. “Debit card scams are a nightmare,” warns Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) in Washington, D.C. “You don’t get the same consumer protection as with a credit card.”
According to federal law, your liability for unauthorized transactions with a credit card is limited to $50.00. But that limit only applies to a debit card if you notify the within two business days after the theft occurs. If you don’t you could be charged up to $500 in unauthorized card purchases. If you fail to report the bogus charges within 60 days after your bank statement is mailed, your liability is unlimited.
So, how can we continue to have the convenience and ease of use we crave and be protected from fraud and theft?
-If a cashier offers to run your debit card for you look at your receipt immediately, make sure that no unauthorized charges are listed, especially those for cash back amounts.
-Use checks whenever possible, fill it out while in line with date and store then all you need to do is add the amount and your signature.
-When your debit card purchase is done, be sure to look at that final question . . . “is this amount correct?” and make sure that no additional cash back charges have appeared.
-Lastly, be sure to come home and check your debit card purchases online within 48 hours. Make sure the amount is as it should be and that no unauthorized charges have occurred.Urban myth or true crime, either way, I can take a minute to look at my receipt at the end of the purchase, can you?