Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Change Machine

Lots of supermarkets have these machines and I've been using them on and off for years. The coins start getting heavy in your pocket so you put them into the machine. Press the green button (far right). The machine counts the coins. Press the red button (middle) and it gives you a receipt for their value (minus a percentage) which you cash at the checkout. What red button? Ah, there's the rub. Instead of pressing the (removed) red button, you now have to summon a member of staff with a special key to get your receipt, which is then personally endorsed for payment.

Now, this sounds like a lot of hassle, not only for the customer, who might not be able to find a member of staff, but for staff who are now constantly interrupted in their other duties.

So, what's it all about. Well, the old system was subject to a scam that operated as follows. A person puts in a Euro and gets a receipt. The receipt carries the relevant id number for the shop and some other information. This information is then incorporated into a new receipt printed by the scammer with a much higher amount on it, which he collects at the checkout.

I was told that one store was stung for €9,000, though that is hard to imagine. The storekeeper I spoke to told me he is well familiar with the texture and print characteristics of the real receipts and when he confronted a scammer recently the guy immediately took to his heels.

I suppose the only proper way to defeat the scammers would be to have the machine online and linked to the checkout where all the information on the receipt would have to compute before any money was paid out. The increased cost of such a system would no doubt send the machine's percentage through the roof and make the whole thing uneconomical.

Stay tuned.

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