Wal-Mart Cash Back Scam
Netlore Archive: Email rumors claim cashiers at Wal-Mart and other retail stores routinely steal money from customers by surreptitiously triggering the 'cash back' option during credit or debit card transactions.
Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: Nov. 2004
Email contributed by K. White, Nov. 15, 2004:
Subject: FW: Wal Mart Alert!!
Something happened to me this past weekend that I wanted to alert everyone I know to be on the look-out for while shopping at Wal Mart, especially during the busy holiday season. This trip I had a buggy full buying stuff to outfit the deer camp and the usual purchases for home, in other words I had over $200 worth of goods to buy. When I checked out, I ran my Wal Mart credit card through the machine and pressed "No" to the question of "Do you want $20 cash back?" The checker fooled around with the register and then asked me to run the card again because it did not work the first time. I don't recall pressing "No" again or even if the question came up on the card terminal. My biggest concern at that time was making sure I picked up all the bags around that carousel they use to bag your purchases. While I was moving my bags back to the cart, I didn't pay any attention to my receipt. Anyway, the next morning I looked at my receipt (I usually just throw it away without looking at it!) There was a line on it that read "$20.00 Cash Back" and another that said "Change Due 20.00." I called the manager and told him what happened and that I did not request $20.00 back, nor did I get $20.00 back. He did not seem a bit surprised. It seems that is a scheme the cashiers use to slip $20.00 in their pockets at the customers expense. The manager said I could come back to the store for the credit but now I wonder how many times this has happened to me in the past that I did not catch. I am not sure if the cashier can override the "No" or if she charged the extra $20.00 during the second swipe of the card. At least this time, she got caught the next day but I would have loved to have caught her in the act the day it happened.
Please pay attention to your receipt and don't let these thieves steal your hard earned money!!
Email contributed by ells, June 15, 2006:
I have actually seen this one.....DON'T KNOW HOW THE CASHIER GOT THE CASH BACK WITH OUT ME USING MY PIN NUMBER BUT SHE DID.......
Subject: Wal Mart
...a few weeks ago I got an e-mail about a scam that the cashiers at Wal Mart are pulling... you use your debit card w/o requesting cash back and the cashier does something on her/his machine that requests cash back and then puts your cash in their pocket... Well, it just happ! ened to me at the Wal Mart on rte 40... I know darn well I hit no for cash back, watched the touch screen light up for "NO" cash back...but had I looked away I wouldn't have seen the next screen light up for $80 cash back...
I looked at it and said, "$80 cash back!!" I hit "NO"...well the cashier says, "there must be something wrong with the machine b/c you're the 2nd person that happened to" "the $80 button must be right above the no"
No, its not...the "no" button is at the very bottom of the screen, no where near the dollar amounts for cash back... I just said, "GIVE ME MY $80!!" "GIVE-ME-MY-$80!!" so she goes back in the drawer for it... I was heated...but I always look at my receipt, I don't always watch the screen, but had I walked away and went back she may have tried to argue with me... Nevertheless, the e-mail is true...they are trying to cheat you when you use your debit card and since I know we all at SSA frequent that Wal Mart I wanted to let you know its happening up there...
Email contributed by S. Smith, Aug. 3, 2009:
FW: Pay attention to your receipts
Pay attention and look at your WALMART receipts...any receipts when you use ANY debit card or credit card
THIS IS TRUE! It happened to me at Wal-Mart (Supercenter Store #1279, 10411 N Freeway 45, Houston , TX 77037 ) a month ago. I bought a bunch of stuff, over $150, & I glanced at my receipt as the cashier was handing me the bags. I saw a cash-back of $40. I told her I didn't request a cash back & to delete it. She said I'd have to take the $40 because she couldn't delete it. I told her to call a supervisor. Supervisor came & said I'd have to take it. I said NO! Taking the $40 would be a cash advance against my Discover & I wasn't paying interest on a cash advance!!!!! If they couldn't delete it then they would have to delete the whole order. So the supervisor had the cashier delete the whole order & re-scan everything! The second time I looked at the electronic pad before I signed & a cash-back of $20 popped up. At that point I told the cashier & she deleted it. The total came out right. The cashier agreed that the electronic pad must be defective. Obviously the cashier knew the electronic pad was defective because she NEVER offered me the $40 at the beginning. Can you imagine how many people went through before me & at the end of her shift how much money she pocketed?
Just to alert everyone. My co worker went to Milford DE Walmart last week. She had her items rung up by the cashier. The cashier hurried her along and didn't give her a receipt. She asked the cashier for a receipt and the cashier was annoyed and gave it to her. My co worker didn't look at her receipt until later that night. The receipt showed that she asked for $20 cash back. SHE DID NOT ASK FOR CASH BACK. My co worker called Walmart who investigated but could not see the cashier pocket the money. She then called her niece who works for the bank and her niece told her this. There is a scam going on. The cashier will ask for cash back and hand it to her friend who is the next person in line. Please, Please, please check your receipts right away when using debit cards. The store has the cashier under investigation now. We can only pray that she is caught very soon.
I am adding to this. My husband and I were in WalMart North Salisbury and paying with credit card when my husband went to sign the credit card signer he just happen to notice there was a $20 cash back added. He told the cashier that he did not ask nor want cash back and she said this machine has been messing up and she canceled it. We really didn't think anything of it until we read this email. Please be aware
Analysis: For a scam so allegedly widespread and easy to pull off, there's precious little in the way of evidence to prove that it often occurs, if ever.
A search of newspaper archives going back 20 years retrieved only one confirmed crime report even vaguely resembling the above, and in that case a grocery clerk was caught double-charging customers who verbally requested cash back at a Solebury, Pennsylvania supermarket in 2007.
A November 24, 2009 article in the Des Moines Register cites an anecdotal report of a fraudulent cash back transaction at a Des Moines retail store, but the details are quite sketchy and it's unclear whether the incident actually amounted to an attempted crime or was merely a cashier error.
Point-of-Sale systems are generally more sophisticated than they once were, making it all but impossible for unscrupulous cashiers to put through cash back transactions without the customers' knowledge. In most modern retail stores, including Wal-Mart, customers swipe their own debit or credit cards and must personally initiate and confirm cash back requests using the same device. The crime could conceivably occur at check-out stands where the clerk swipes the customer's card and enters cash back requests manually, but these circumstances are becoming more rare.
In any case, these emails do offer one good bit of advice, which is to check one's receipts before leaving any commercial establishment to make sure no mistakes or hanky-panky have occurred. It's just the prudent thing to do.
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Sources and further reading:
Bankers Trust Issues Warning About 'Cash Back' Scam
Des Moines Register, 24 November 2009
13 Tips to Protect Yourself on Black Friday, Cyber Monday
CreditCards.com, 26 November 2008
Wal-Mart Credit Card Account Benefits
Last updated: 11/25/09