How One Shopper Stopped Card Fraud at Walmart

I’m sure all retailers wish their cashiers were more vigilant in catching credit and debit card theft at the time it occurs. But who really expects shoppers to be aware of card fraud in progress and alert stores to what is going on? That is exactly what happened at a Walmart store in American Fork, Utah, last week. A woman waiting in line to check out happened to stand behind two men attempting card fraud. The men attempted to buy several gift cards for $900 each. However, after several different cards were declined, the shopper became suspicious. Note that it was the shopper – not the cashier – who first became suspicious! "His card was declined, so he pulled another card out and got a few more until that card (wasn't) declined," the woman who did not wish to be named told KSL TV. Ultimately, the men left the Walmart store with five or six $900 gift cards each. "I looked at the cashier and said, ‘You know, that's credit card fraud,' and she said, ‘Yeah, I was kind of thinking that and was trying to get my manager over,' " the shopper said. The cashier’s lax response alarms me more than anything else. The two men presenting payment card after payment card for whopping $900 gift cards caused the cashier some concern, but she did nothing to stop the theft. Granted, I am not privy to Wal-Mart’s training policy for cashiers, but I am quite sure that cashiers are typically required to alert their manager to suspected card fraud in a casual way at the time. There are several simple ways that cashiers can catch the attempted fraud as it is in progress. The San Jose Police Department provides a few recommendations – some of which are basic – that would have aided the Walmart cashier in question. One SJPD tip is to request a valid ID when presented with a credit card. Especially in this case, wouldn’t that simple request have made the men nervous about presenting additional payment cards? SJPD also says cashiers should call the card issuer for authorization when they are suspicious about the card, compare the signature on the card with the one on the sales receipt, and verify the card before approving a purchase over the floor limit. The most relevant card fraud prevention tip in this case is to have cashiers “contact their supervisors” if they suspect fraud. But I digress. This story actually has a happy ending for Walmart and provides lessons for other retailers. Based on her suspicions, the vigilant shopper followed the two men to the parking lot, called police, and gave them the thieves’ plate number. The two men, Lin Chen and Zheng Bing Ni from California, were caught with stolen credit cards, $16,000 worth of gift cards, and fake IDs. "As people are out shopping this time of the year, if they will just pay attention while they are shopping and partner up with the police department, we can really solve a lot of crime,” Lt. Sam Liddiard with the American Fork Police Department told KSL TV.