It’s not entirely uncommon for a quick trip to the Apple store to ring up a considerable bill. But it was the other way around for a Florida man who allegedly scammed the company out more than $310,000.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the 24-year-old is accused of conning Apple retail outlets 42 different times for a total of $309,768. The Secret Service, along with investigators for Apple and Chase, accuse the suspect of pulling his scam at stores in 16 different states.
So, how did he do it? Apparently through a practice known as a “forced sale,” “forced post” or “forced code.”
When a credit or debit card gets declined, the customer can protest and ask the merchant to contact the bank to confirm. If the bank agrees, it provides the merchant with an override code that will allow the transaction to go through.
The suspect in this case took advantage of a huge loophole in the system — the override codes mean nothing. As long the code includes the correct number of digits, the denial will be overridden.
And instead of allowing the cashier to call and check with the bank, the alleged scammer used his own phone to pretend to call his bank. He would then give the cashier a code he knew would work.
Merchants who enter bad override codes can be on the hook for the fraudulent purchases.
“Because Apple employees overrode the initial declination against the instructions of Chase Bank, Apple — not the financial institution — suffered the loss as a result of this fraudulent transaction,” the complaint states.
An official with the Secret Service says retailers can avoid such scams by not permitting hand-keyed overrides, even if it comes at the convenience of customers.
Karisse Hendrick, program manager for the Americas at the Seattle-based Merchant Risk Council, tells the Times that businesses have to weigh their options when it comes to pleasing a customer and liability.
“There are very creative bad guys who are always going to be looking for the easy way out and can be very convincing even in person,” Hendrick says.
Tampa man accused of scamming Apple out of $309,768 [The Tampa Bay Times]