Couple Accused Of Pulling “Shoulder Surfing” Scam To Cash $400K In Counterfeit Checks At Walmart

Whenever you’re dealing with your private information in a public place, it’s a good idea to use your body/bag/hand as a shield to keep prying eyes from peeking where they shouldn’t. You never know, there could be someone trying to pull a “shoulder surfing” scam, as officials are calling the method employed by a couple of accused scammers who allegedly preyed on folks cashing checks at Walmart.

Authorities in Montgomery, AL say a husband and wife cruised the country’s Walmart stores, stealing Social Security numbers from customers cashing checks, reports

See, in order to cash a check at Walmart, you can sign up with the retailer using your SSN to get check cashing privileges. Once you’re signed up, you simply enter your number into Walmart’s system so it can be checked against a database. If you’re not going around cashing fake checks, the system clears you and you get your money, for a fee that varies depending on how much you’re cashing.

“That Social Security number really tells the system that there’s been no negative hits with this account and you are in good standing with Wal-Mart,” Postal Service Inspector David Anderchak explained to the news station.

The couple accused of stealing more than $400,000 from Walmart used a “shoulder surfing” method to glean SSNs from folks: they’d wait in stores for people to approach the customer service desk to cash a check. The wife would typically stand a little bit behind the victim on an angle, Anderchak says, and then allegedly used her smart phone to zoom in and film the person entering their SSN. Hence, shoulder surfing.

The alleged identity thief “really did a great job of shoulder surfing using a smart phone,” says Anderchak.

Then they’d move on to another Walmart, where the man would allegedly go up to the customer service deck and enter a victim’s SSN to cash a counterfeit check.

In a period lasting up to 15 months, authorities say the duo lifted more than 900 SSNs. Walmart investigators worked with postal inspectors to finally track down the suspects, who were arrested in Las Vegas, where they were said to be gambling away most of the money they’d allegedly stolen. They’re now facing wire fraud and identity theft charges.

To make sure you don’t fall victim to the shoulder surfing move, postal inspectors advise people to create a barrier between you and prying eyes — “whether that’s with your hand or that’s with your body,” Anderchack notes — and to be aware of your surroundings at places like an ATM or a retailer’s point-of-sale system.

Shoulder surfing new scam targeting consumers []

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