A Rather Brilliant Scam

There’s a lot of scams out there but it’s rare that you come across an especially clever one. Sharron Laverne Parrish Jr. supposedly managed to pull off a scam that actually merits a little congratulations for creativity:

Here’s how it works: Parrish allegedly visited Apple Stores and tried to buy products with four different debit cards, which were all closed by his respective financial institutions. When his debit card was inevitably declined by the Apple Store, he would protest and offer to call his bank — except, he wasn’t really calling his bank.

So, the complaint says, he would offer the Apple Store employees a fake authorization code with a certain number of digits, which is normally provided by credit card issuers to create a record of the credit or debit override. (Business Insider, like the Tampa Bay Times, refuses to publish the number of digits “so as not to inspire anyone.”)

But that’s the problem with this system: as long as the number of digits is correct, the override code itself doesn’t matter.

I could find the number of digits from the quick Google search I performed otherwise I would let you know what it is (because security through obscurity is dumb and people who rely on it should feel bad for doing so). But using this scheme Mr. Parrish scammed various Apple stores out of $309,768 in merchandise. My guess is the high amount is what ultimately got him caught. Let this be a lesson to would-be thieves. If you’ve found a good scam don’t use it too much because that is what will most likely get you caught.

What’s especially bad about this scam is that the retailer generally has to eat the costs because they overrode the declination. Because of this many retailers will probably stop accepting override codes under any circumstance. That’s the only way to protect against this scam since the only thing that determines whether or not an authorization code is valid or not is the number of digits.