It’s common for Bamboozled readers to reach out to ask about scams.
Sometimes they’ve been approached by a con artist. Other times they wanted to double-check that something was authentic.
And there are also readers who want to share what ends up in their email boxes.
Such was the case with Sherry Spiezle, 80.
The active senior citizen received an email, forwarded from a friend, about a scam that involved Walmart. But “this could happen anywhere,” the email warning said.
The email advised readers to be especially attentive to reviewing their receipts before leaving a cashier’s station, especially with the holiday season approaching.
It shared several stories about Walmart customers who believed they were the victims of a scam in which a cashier was the perpetrator. The cashier supposedly selected the “cash back” option before closing out a sale — without the customer knowing. The cashier would then pocket the money or give it to an accomplice who was impersonating another shopper in line.
Here’s one version of the warning:
“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. (yeah, right!)
“Obviously the cashier knew the electronic pad wasn’t 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?”
It sounds plausible, but a closer look shows why this alleged scam is nothing more than a rumor.
We checked out the incident on Snopes.com, a website that debunks urban legend, social media hoaxes and other scammy stuff.
It said this one was indeed a hoax, one that’s been circulating since late 2004.
Snopes said it visited a number of different Walmart stores, and “in not one single case did we find a store with a checkout system that allowed cashiers to initiate cash back transactions on customers’ cards on their own, without any involvement, knowledge, or approval on the customer’s part.”
“There was simply no way for a cashier working at any of these businesses to surreptitiously place a cash back charge on a customer’s card and furtively pocket the money, all without the customer’s requesting or knowing about it,” Snopes said.
We reached out to Walmart about the rumor, and to learn exactly how it handles “cash back” transactions. A spokesman confirmed the Snopes report.
“Our cashier associates cannot engage the ‘cash back’ option,” Walmart spokesman Charles Crowson said. “It must be initiated by the customer.”
And this note to our especially suspicious readers: Sure, there are times when a cashier in any store might reach over and press a button on a credit or debit card purchase, such as the red “cancel” button or the green “agree” or “okay” buttons, but a customer would have to be incredibly distracted, or just plain-old not paying attention, for a cashier to complete a “cash back” request without the customer noticing.
So shoppers, proceed with your “cash back” transactions. But no matter what, always pay close attention to your receipt before you leave any store.