TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Wal-Mart Stung in $1.5 Million Bar-Code Scam

Re: Wal-Mart Stung in $1.5 Million Bar-Code Scam
21 Jan 2005 10:12:21 -0800

Monty Solomon wrote:

> In a scheme that leveraged a little technology but relied on
> inattentive cashiers, Tennessee authorities have arrested two couples
> on charges that they used bogus bar codes to steal at least $1.5
> million from hundreds of stores -- some belonging to Wal-Mart -- in 19
> states. The group is slated to appear in court Wednesday.

This sort of thing is nothing new.

Years ago, people would take two garmets, one cheap, one expensive,
then switch the price tags on them. That led to tamper proof price
tags, including price stickers that shred when peeled off.

Counterfeiting external bar codes tags with a cheap item doesn't seem
very hard. It's a little harder when the code is directly printed on
the item, but most clothes aren't like that. Indeed, a lot of stores
put their own bar code over the pre-printed code (the big bookstores
do that).

Perhaps they'll have to come up with a barcode label that can be sewn
unobtrusively into a garmet by the manufacturer; the label would have
to be small and soft, and the barcode tiny. That might make reading

Adding to the risk is today's big discount stores, which use
centralized checkouts like a supermarket. Traditional dept stores had
registers and clerks in each department who would more familiar with
individual goods and their prices; and would be suspicious if a nice
coat had a price of a washcloth. Today's clerks, under computerized
productivity pressure, scan items by as fast as possible and let the
computer do the thinking.

The flip side of this is that consumers can be hurt by bad bar codes,
too. I just bought some old tapes on closeout sale at a video store,
and the clerk failed to charge me the posted sale price and had to
call the mgr when I mentioned it. (At least he knew not to charge me
the brand new retail price which is what his computer told him to
charge me).

[P.S. If you like videos, your local video store is probably selling
off its old tapes now that everything is DVD. You might find some
good deals. I got three movies for $10.]

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