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Cashier cash-back scam may be a sham

Have you seen the cashier cash-back scam warnings, flying all over Facebook and other social networking sites?

I just received such a notice, which already showed well over half a million Facebook shares. Maybe you saw it too.

What do the cashier cash-back scam alerts say?

Such an alert, which usually includes a photo of a customer’s store receipt, claims that a certain customer recently discovered an unexpected cash-back total on a store receipt. Many of the most widely circulated warnings point to WalMart stores in various locations, although other stores (and even gas stations) may be tagged as well.

The warning details how the apparently scammed customer never asked for a cash-back on the transaction, which most likely involved a debit card. (Similar stories may involve credit cards as well.)

Here, the cashier cash-back scam stories may go in two different directions.

1) The customer supposedly left the store without receiving any cash back, only to check the receipt later and discover the cash-back line item listed.

2) The customer reportedly noticed the cash-back line item on the receipt and pointed it out to the cashier, who either insisted on giving the customer the cash or claimed he/she would delete that from the transaction. 
If the customer accepted the cash-back, it would likely count as a cash advance against his or her own account, incurring steep service fees or interest charges. If the cashier did not actually cancel the cash-back, that might mean he or she pocketed the difference, according to the scam warning stories.

Is the cashier cash-back scam for real?

Are cashiers actually stealing money from checkout customers’ credit card or checking accounts?

Apparently, the cashier cash-back scam stories, spreading virally through social networking sites, are unproven and unsubstantiated. In fact, most mega-stores have security cameras over their checkout stations, so that every transaction may be monitored. (Look overhead in any Target, WalMart, or other big-box store. Those black balloon-like bubbles contain security cameras.)

Cashier cash-back scam rumors have circulated since at least 2004, despite the fact-checking efforts of popular  rumor debunking sites like as Snopes, Truth or Fiction, Urban Legends, and Waffles at Noon.

This does not mean customers don’t need to double-check receipts and guard cards carefully.
Just because actual cases have not been documented or proven does not mean it does not pay to be cautious. When actual credit card or debit card thefts or scams do occur, customers are expected to report them promptly. In many cases, banks hold customers responsible for the first $50 of the fraudulent charges, although account policies vary from one provider to another.

Smart customers will examine cashier receipts carefully. Savvy consumers will also fact-check viral warnings before sharing as well. Sometimes a little homework pays off.

WalMart Checkout
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

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