Breaking News in the Industry: April 12, 2018

Employees bought more than $26,000 in gift cards with fake coupons

Authorities have arrested two employees of a Harvey, Louisiana, Walgreens accused of buying tens of thousands of dollars in gift cards using forged coupons. Kewanta Young, 35, of Avondale, was booked Friday with theft valued over $26,000 and five counts of computer fraud, according to an arrest report. Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office investigators arrested Fanny Kelley, 40, of Harvey, on Feb. 21 and booked her with theft valued under $4,999 and five counts of computer fraud, Jefferson Parish court records said. Young and Kelley worked as shift leaders at Walgreens, where officials performed an audit at the location earlier this year and discovered an unusually large number of prepaid gift cards had been bought using Catalina coupons, according to a Sheriff’s Office incident report. Various stores use Catalina coupons, which are printed at checkout based on purchases made. The coupons can only be used for a specific product. But the coupons used at the Harvey Walgreens were forgeries that allowed the suspects to receive $15 off any item in the store, according to the incident report. Young and Kelley are accused of cooperating with a third suspect, a female customer who came into the store and conducted multiple transactions per day, handing over several coupons during each transaction.

For example, Young and the third suspect are accused of buying $10,000 worth of gift cards using the coupons in a single day in February, according to the Sheriff’s Office. A Walgreens fraud investigator identified Young and Kelley as suspects because the women’s employee numbers were used to run the register during the suspicious transactions, an incident report said. The third suspect has not yet been arrested, Boyd said. On five days between Jan. 29 and Feb. 7, Young conducted 173 transactions with the third suspect, purchasing a total of $26,055 in gift cards. Kelley conducted 76 transactions on five days between Nov. 19 and Jan. 5 for a total of $3,124 in gift cards. The case is still under investigation, according to Boyd. Investigators are awaiting additional evidence from Walgreens. They’re also working to obtain a warrant for the third suspect. Young was being held Tuesday at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in lieu of a $78,000 bond. Kelley was released Feb. 22 on a $9,000 bond.  [Source: The Times-Picayune]

Two off-duty cops make shoplift arrest

Two off-duty police officers helped capture a man who police said stole several hundred dollars worth of merchandise from a Home Depot store. Police officer Sgt. Paul Catalina was walking towards the store on Route 88 near the Lakewood border when he heard an anti-theft device alarm and saw a store employee chasing a man into the parking lot, according to Brick police Sgt. Neal Pedersen. Noticing a security device on the boxes Catalina followed the man back to a car, a 2014 Hyundai Sonata. Pederson said Catalina identified himself as a a police officer and told the man, Brian Eckardt, 41, from Manahawkin, he was under arrest. Eckardt tried to drive off but Catalina put his hand inside the car to turn the car off. Off-duty Robbinsville police officer Matthew Hill, who was also shopping at the store, assisted Catalina in restraining Eckert into custody. Eckert was later found to have a Milwaukee M18 Fuel Drill Kit, valued at $399 and a DeWalt Compact Brushless Drill/Driver Kit, valued at $199, and were recovered. He was charged for shoplifting, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a hypodermic syringe. [Source: NJ101.5 News]

Teen said she intended to steal hoverboards; family banned from store

One family can’t return to the North Road Walmart in Orangeburg, South Carolina, after a teen allegedly tried to steal a hoverboard, according to a sheriff’s office incident report. The store’s loss prevention department called the sheriff’s office at 8:30 p.m. Monday. The parents told deputies they went to Walmart to return some items they received at a housewarming party, the report said. As the parents were speaking with customer service representatives, their three children wandered about the store unsupervised. A loss prevention associate followed the unsupervised children around the store and observed the three children and parents attempting to leave the store with merchandise. A loss prevention associate attempted to stop the family from exiting the store., that’s when the father advised one of the teens to leave the merchandise at the door. The teen allegedly told deputies that she intended to steal the hoverboards for her and her two siblings but that her parents didn’t know she was going to steal them. The hoverboards are valued at $894. Deputies released the children to their parents, issued a trespass notice for the children and their parents, and forwarded the case to the Department of Juvenile Justice for prosecution of shoplifting valued at less than $1,000.   [Source: The T&D]

Customer suing over new returns policy never tried to return boots

The Illinois man who in mid-February filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status against L.L. Bean for changing its lifetime return policy never tried to return his L.L. Bean boots, the company said in a series of court filings. L.L. Bean last Friday filed eight documents responding to the lawsuit and asking the Illinois Northern District Court, among other things, to dismiss the suit. The retailer claims the plaintiff, Illinois resident Victor Bondi, lacks the standing to sue on behalf of a nationwide class of people because he does not live in other states or hasn’t bought goods from L.L. Bean in other states. The retailer also noted in its filings that Bondi did not appear to try to return the boots he mentioned in his lawsuit. L.L. Bean wrote that Bondi has not suffered any injury and thus has no standing to pursue his lawsuit. “[Bondi] has never tried to return his L.L. Bean products, and has not been refused a refund. Plaintiff has not alleged a deceptive or unfair act, or any actual damage, as required by the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act,” L.L. Bean wrote in a memo to the court.

In his Feb. 12 lawsuit, Bondi said he was a loyal customer who made purchases based on L.L. Bean’s unconditional satisfaction guarantee. “Among the items he has purchased from L.L. Bean are Bean boots purchased at a L.L. Bean retail location in South Barrington, Illinois, in 2017,” Bondi’s lawsuit said. “L.L. Bean’s warranty formed the basis of the bargain for all of Bondi’s purchases.” On Feb. 9, the company imposed limits on the 100 percent satisfaction guarantee on returns that it had in place for more than a century, placing a one-year limit on most returns to reduce what it called growing abuse and fraud. L.L. Bean told the Associated Press that it had lost $250 million over the past five years on returned items that were in such poor condition they had to be destroyed. L.L. Bean also asked that Bondi’s individual claim be dismissed because the retailer said he misunderstood the change in its policy. When the lawsuit was filed, L.L. Bean spokeswoman Carolyn Beem told the Bangor Daily News that, “The recently filed lawsuit misrepresents the terms of our new returns policy. L.L. Bean products bought prior to Feb. 9, 2018 will not be subject to the new one-year restriction.” Ben Barnow, an attorney at Barnow & Associates in Chicago, which is representing Bondi, said through a spokesman that, “We do not comment on pending litigation.” Anthony Anscombe, an attorney at Steptoe & Johnson in Chicago, which is representing L.L. Bean, was not immediately available for comment on the next steps in the case. [Source: Herald & Review]

Good Samaritan helps stop shoplifter and gets stabbed in process

A Good Samaritan helped stop a shoplifter in Hartland, Michigan, but got stabbed and hit in the process. It happened at the Rural King store off Highland Road. Caleb Ketchum, an employee at Rural King, said he was on a break, when he saw the commotion. “I look over and I see my manager is on the ground and I see this guy running away with two other employees behind him,” said Ketchum. He jumped into action, but in the process the suspect stabbed him and hit him in the face. I didn’t even know I was stabbed until after, l didn’t even know he hit me in the face or anything,” said Ketchum. Ketchum said he is feeling much better, as a matter of fact he went to work the very next day.  His hand is stitched up and he has a good shiner on his eye. He said he doesn’t know what the suspect was trying to take. “A bunch of stuff, his coat was loaded down with a bunch of merchandise,” said Ketchum.

Ketchum and his mom said they’re both happy he took action, because otherwise the suspect might not have been caught, but Ketchum didn’t act alone. “A customer that saw it happen, she and her son got in the car and followed the guy, which again, I don’t recommend, but I’m glad she did, she followed him right to his driveway,” said Ketchum’s mother, Michelle Morgan. The customer called 911 and Livingston County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 39 year-old Sean Thompson of White Lake Township. Thompson is facing retail fraud and unarmed robbery charges currently, but investigators said more charges could be added. Morgan said she understands her son took a big risk. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people telling him, there’s a loss prevention insurance, don’t risk your life for that, you don’t make enough for that,” said Morgan. She said she still thinks he acted the right way. “I’m proud that I raised a son that is going to jump in and do the right thing in a world where people don’t want to,” said Morgan. [Source: WXYZ News]

Credit card signatures are going away because they were useless

Credit card signatures are dying. And it’s about time. Starting this month, four of the largest credit card companies—Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover—will stop requiring signatures on purchases. Major retailers, like Walmart, have already stopped using signatures. Target told The New York Times on Sunday that it will stop requiring customers to provide a signature in April. Signatures have historically been used to confirm that a consumer wants to make a purchase and agree to the amount they are being charged. It’s also an attempt to verify their identity in the event fraud occurs. While in theory that might make sense, it’s become obsolete. When signatures are required, people often scribble a few lines on a keypad or receipt and move along. And since the retailer does not verify that, it’s impossible to know whether the person who signed is really authorized to make a purchase with a chosen credit card. Worse yet, signatures have been phasing out for years. In October, MasterCard said as much when it revealed that 80% of in-store transactions it processes don’t even require a signature, according to CreditCards.com. The move to abandon signatures entirely, then, will only affect 20% of the purchases its customers make. When Visa announced that it would no longer require signatures in April, the company suggested signatures do little to improve security and make for a less appealing purchase experience. “We believe making the signature requirement optional for EMV chip-enabled merchants is the responsible next step to enhance security and convenience at the point of sale,” Visa vice president Dan Sanford said at the time. In its own announcement, American Express said that signatures, which had been used to fight fraud, are no longer the right verification method for the job. [Source: Fortune]

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