Anyone who’s ever had their credit card stolen or had false purchases made on their card knows what a headache it is. Not only has someone else spent your money, but now you have to deal with the aftermath. You have to cancel all your cards, change all your passwords, and apply for new cards. Scammers, unfortunately, are getting increasingly crafty. This is how they are targeting you at the grocery store.
New Grocery Store Scams to Watch Out For: Protect Yourself From Criminals
With the rise in crime and scams targeting grocery stores, it’s important to be vigilant and aware of the various scams that can occur while shopping. Criminals are becoming more creative in their methods, often targeting unsuspecting shoppers at or near the checkout line. These are seven new grocery store scams that you should watch out for the next time you go grocery shopping. By familiarizing yourself with these scams, you can protect your hard-earned money and ensure a safe shopping experience. (1, 2)
1. Distraction Theft
One of the most common scams near the checkout line is distraction theft. Organized groups of thieves target shoppers, often women, who have open purses exposed in their shopping carts. While one member of the group distracts the shopper, another swiftly steals money, wallets, credit cards, or other valuables from the open bag. It is important to keep your purse closed and secured at all times while shopping.
2. Found Money Scam
Another scam that has been on the rise is the found money scam, often occurring at self-checkout aisles. In this scam, multiple criminals work together to deceive shoppers. By dropping a $10 bill near the victim’s feet and pointing it out, one scammer gains the victim’s trust. They then stand close and observe the victim punching their pin number into the keypad. The original scammer follows the victim to the parking lot and, while a cooperating suspect approaches the victim with a claim that the found money belongs to them, the original scammer swiftly swipes the victim’s card associated with the observed pin number.
3. Gift Card Scam
Gift cards are a popular last-minute purchase at grocery store checkout lines. However, criminals have found a way to exploit this convenience. They open gift cards, copy the information, and skillfully reseal the packaging to make it look undisturbed. Unsuspecting customers who purchase these tampered gift cards inadvertently activate them, allowing scammers to spend the funds before the legitimate purchaser or recipient even realizes what has happened. To protect yourself, buy gift cards from reputable sources, preferably online, or from stores where they are secured behind the counter.
4. Kind-Hearted Shopper Scam
Scammers often prey on shoppers’ generosity and good intentions. In this scam, individuals claiming to be in need approach unsuspecting shoppers at grocery stores, specifically targeting those purchasing items like diapers and baby formula. These scammers play on sympathy, claiming to be parents who cannot afford basic necessities for their newborns. They ask for assistance in purchasing these items, but the money is never actually used for its intended purpose. To protect yourself, consider donating to reputable charities or organizations instead of providing direct assistance to individuals you encounter at the grocery store.
5. Fake Product Returns
Sometimes, scammers target the return policy of grocery stores. They may purchase an item, use it, and then attempt to return a similar-looking but different (possibly damaged or cheap) item for a refund. It is important for grocery stores to validate returns carefully and for shoppers to be aware of their rights and the return policies in place.
6. Coupon Scams
Coupons are a popular way to save money at grocery stores, but scammers have found ways to create and distribute fake coupons. These counterfeit coupons often promise significant discounts or even “free” products. Be cautious when using coupons obtained from unverified sources or websites. Stick to reputable coupon websites or those provided directly by the grocery store.
7. Payment App Scams
With the growing popularity of mobile payment apps, scammers have found ways to exploit this technology. They may pose as store employees and offer assistance to unsuspecting shoppers, but their intention is to gain access to the shopper’s mobile payment app and steal personal information or money. Be cautious when sharing sensitive information, and always verify the identity of store employees.
Always Be Aware
As technology advances, scammers become more creative in defrauding unsuspecting shoppers. By staying informed about the latest grocery store scams and being vigilant while shopping, you can protect yourself from falling victim to these money traps. Remember to keep your personal belongings secure, only purchase gift cards from trusted sources, and be cautious when approached by strangers seeking assistance. By practicing caution and awareness, you can ensure a safe and secure grocery shopping experience.
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- “New Grocery Store Scams: Watch Out for These Money Traps at the Checkout Line.” Yahoo. Andrew Lisa. October 27, 2023.
- “The sneakiest new shopping scams.” Consumer Reports. October 2010.