I got to give my canned scam speech twice last week. That’s the one that I use to scare the bijeebers (I think my Mom made that word up) out of businesses by telling them the 400 ways that criminals are attempting to reduce their bottom line even further. I noticed that over the past few years the crimes haven’t changed significantly, but their delivery mechanism has. Technology has allowed us to invent a cyber-criminal, and every day I am amazed to discover a new technique. Today’s involved gift cards and bar codes.
With a printer and a bar code machine, a cunning thief printed stickers that he put on the back of the packaging of Visa gift cards. Visa gift cards come in a sleeve, and that sleeve contains the bar code that matches the inside card. When you check out at the retailer, a swipe of that sleeve over the bar code scanner directs your money to move onto the card. That is, as long as the bar code on the card is still the same as the bar code on the sleeve. In this case, the thief put a sticker on the sleeve that, when swiped over the scanner, diverted the money to an account, rather than putting it on the card. The only way you could detect this would be by pulling the card out of the sleeve prior to purchase and comparing the two numbers, or checking your register tape after the transaction to make sure the number on the tape matched the number on your card. Have you ever done that? Didn’t think so. You might want to now.
The beauty of this scam is the built in time between the con and the discovery. The fraud will not be detected until there is an attempted use on the card. Most cards are given as gift … time delay … and then the recipient must make a trip to the retailer to use … further time delay. There is plenty of time for the thief to make a “hit” and move the money to a foreign account before the scam is detected. And so the retailers will move their strategy of prevention, likely causing them an investment, ultimately costing us as consumers, as crime often does. Be careful out there.