Bar Code Scammers Arrested

Dec 05, 2003
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Federal authorities arrested three people in the Atlanta area yesterday who allegedly used a bar code scam to steal $150,000 and perhaps more from Home Depot and Lowe’s.

The three are charged with switching bar codes from lower price items, placing them on higher priced goods and then returning the more expensive products to another store for a dollar exchange in the form of gift cards.

David and Mindy Oliver and Marcus Ambercrombie are then said to have sold the gift cards online at eBay.

The US Attorney prosecuting the case, Bill Duffey, said, “This case shows how technological- and Internet-savvy people can defraud business and consumers. This was a remarkably innovative criminal scheme. These people knew how to manipulate the system.”

Walter Palmer, a loss-prevention consultant based in Lexington, Ky., told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the charges in this case are similar to the fraudulent “free” coupons that have plagued the supermarket industry.

“This is really just an evolution of a theft pattern that has been going on for years and years,” he said. “It’s a serious problem for the industry. We’re seeing organized groups of people doing this as a business, even using fencing operations to convert the stolen goods into cash.”

Mike Lamb, senior director of loss prevention for Home Depot’s eastern division said the chain was finally able to catch the suspects using its real-time digital camera security system after the chain noticed a pattern of fraudulent purchases.

Moderator’s Comment: Are retail operations better protected today from thieves and scammers than they were in the past because of new sophisticated security

Are there any retailers you are aware of that could be considered “best in class” for protecting their business from scams and shrink due to theft?

More sophisticated traps create more sophisticated thieves. What will other thieves learn from the mistakes of the alleged criminals in this case to avoid
letting themselves be caught?
Anderson – Moderator

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