Originally this weeks post was going to have nothing to do with me and instead focus on my other coworkers and their happy-fun-times (sarcasm) that they go through at work. But due to recent events (yesterday as I type this, Monday as I post it) I have a more personal mishap to share.
Now, to begin, I think at this point it goes without saying but apparently some of us (me) aren’t smart enough to know better.
Today’s topic is phone scams.
We’ve all at least heard of them before, if not seen it in movies/TV or commercials for people who are victims of it. I used to be one of those people who would say things like, “Well duh, moron, you don’t give your information over the phone. Everywhere in the history of nearly forever will never ask for your information. It’s obviously a scam! Idiots.”
To summarize my foray into the hell of phone scams: I nearly lost my part-time job and cost our store/company nearly $1,000. (I still remember the exact amount the caller got and will probably never forget it.)
It started off innocent enough. We got a call about 40 minutes to closing time and a gentleman with a southern accent (possibly Texan) asked if I could hand him off to a manager. I was currently the manager on duty (third in line, after SM and ASM), and was training another girl who would soon have the same position as me at the store. So basically, the call fell to me.
He gave me a name I’d heard before w/in the company, stated his position and that he needed us to gather up some Amazon gift cards. They were being recalled due to issues with giving customers the correct amount they paid for. I’d just sold one of these cards to a customer an hour or so before, and we sold them all the time, so of course I wanted to get this taken care of ASAP. We had four left in store and I wasn’t about to let someone else get screwed over by a mistake.
Let me preface the rest of this by saying I was suspicious from nearly the beginning. I even questioned this man a couple times on his authenticity. However, in spite of all that, I still went through with the whole thing. Because I’m an idiot. He used lies and bullying and threatening tactics to get me to do as he asked once I started getting lippy, and it worked. This is a mistake, and I urge anyone who may find themselves in this situation to be that person who goes, “Duh! Scam!!” and hang up.
I have to leave our poor new girl alone for most of this, as I have to go in back in order to make out what the man is saying. To simplify things and shorten this a bit (it’s already getting long, ugh), I ended up giving him the numbers off the cards. He needed the whole number in order to completely void it out so it couldn’t be used. Seemed to make sense to me at the time (wroooong).
During this he also told me not to answer the phones (so many red flags, Briana…) as it was his associates trying to keep… the connection, or something… I forget his exact wording at this point (I was just trying to hurry and get it over with so I could help the new girl (let me call her J, new girl is too long)–we had a customer issue she wasn’t sure how to deal with) but it “made sense” to me and so I was like, “Yeah, sure, okay!”
The phone was ringing as he told me this, and I was just about to run out and tell J not to answer per his orders, but she beat me to it. It was a customer, so I’m thankful she did.
Once that’s all said and done, he then tells me I need to run the cards through our tills in order to get them out of our system. He gave me numbers for each of the four cards that I would have to input into a field, and the only field that I could put them into is “cash.” This number, and the numbers I would receive on the receipt, would then be used at the end of the business day to fix our tills and void the cards.
At this point I was pretty much 99.9% suspicious and began to question him.
“Why do I need to run it through the till?”
“How is this going to fix itself at the end of the night? I’ve never done something like this before.”
“I really don’t feel comfortable doing this when I haven’t done anything like it before. Is there any way I can have you ask my manager to do this when he’s in next?”
“Is there any way you can prove to me that you are who you say? I don’t want to be insubordinate but I’m not comfortable with this and have no way of knowing.”
And then the pressure is put on.
“Do you not know who I am?” he emphasized. He repeated his name and position in the company (which I still recognized), and said that this was a serious matter and had to be dealt with immediately. This was no joke, and my dilly-dallying was hindering things.
I was flustered, worried. I didn’t want to get in trouble for disobeying someone much higher up than I was, whether I was suspicious of this or not. I meekly agreed to what he was saying, and went through with the first transaction.
I gave him the numbers he ‘needed’ off the receipt, and repeated the process for the second of four gift cards. As I was halfway through the third, we received another phone call. J quietly asked me if she should answer (as I’d since told her what the man on the phone had told me about answering calls). I asked him if it was okay for us to answer this one, but every time he’d begin to talk the phone would ring and drown him out. J and I looked to each other for a moment and I nodded for her to answer it.
I go back to the transaction when suddenly J hands me the phone–someone asking for a manager. “Ugh, another one?” I think to myself as I tell the man on the phone I have to help a customer quick. He says sure, no problem.
Turns out the phone call is from Amazon. “Have you run a couple of our gift cards recently? Was it cash or card or check? Is the customer there with you?”
I answered all his questions, and to my slight relief but simultaneous horror he told me it was more than likely a scam call. He told me to hang up and that he and his people on his end would work to reimburse the money to the company. I hung up with the Amazon rep and immediately ended the call with the other man. But it was about $1,000 too late. Would have been nearly $2,000 if Amazon hadn’t caught it and called.
J and I (finally) got a hold of our manager and he had to return to the store to help with my colossal fuck up.
TL;DR :: I am an idiot. You should never have to give out such information on the phone, be it gift/credit/debit card numbers or personal information. If you have any doubts, hang up. If it really is legit, they can always call back and find some way to prove their legitimacy. (<–Moral of the story.)
And worst of all? There had apparently been an email blast sent to stores a couple days before, warning of phone scams. I hadn’t been to the store in a few days, and we’d been busy, so I hadn’t had a chance to check emails, but it’s no excuse. There were so many signs and my fear of pissing off a higher up and wanting to prevent disaster in other ways stopped me from thinking clearly. I pretty much deserve to have my position terminated.
In all actuality I may still lose my job. I can’t believe I wasn’t immediately told to leave my keys on the counter and to get the hell out. But as of writing this (02/02/2016) I still work there. I guess being a loyal employee for nearly five years helps a bit.