Couple scams millions from Walmart by using it's business strategy against it!

What happens when your business model involves minimally paid, minimally trained, non-full time employees, and hundreds of thousands of SKUs (stock keeping units).

You open yourself up the UPC Gang!

Bar-code switching scam nets $1.5 million - Two couples charged for allegedly defrauding Wal-Mart


It seems that I must adjust my estimate of the locals’ intelligence upward.

For a change.

Beware of falling prices, indeed! :smiley:

Somebody actually made a website with printable UPC codes, so you could paste 'em over the real one and pay much less. Got shut down pretty quick, as you can imagine.

Even Chief Scott would have to admit this is the appropriate place for one of these: :slight_smile:

(It’s the Rollback Man, indeed!)

Well, you have to give them credit for the level of sophistication of the scam.

I’m surprised it took this long for someone to come up with that.

Yeah, it’s wrong, but I’ve long thought that UPCs were too easily exploitable to be relied upon completely. Add in a work force that’s too overworked and understaffed to care or notice and a company is almost inviting itself to be taken advantage of.

That’s pretty good, but it raises the question: Why are crooks always some of the most clever people? They are not necessarily smart or bright, but are very good at outdoing others.

Why risk getting caught by an employee? Just fill your cart to the brim with small, expensive electronics (like USB drives and MP3 players), put .99 cent UPC stickers on them, and then hit the Self-Checkout lanes.

After all, they are there for your shopping convenience.

My guess would be that in this era of cheap, high definition scanners and printers, somebody did think of this before, and that there are a lot of people who’ve done this and continue to do so.

Notice that in the article, Wal-Mart was pretty much no-comment on the whole thing? They do not want this story to get any more publicity than this, because this method of theft will be very difficult to defend against.

Otherwise they’re not crooks; they’re inmates.

That might not work. I know at supermarkets, the bar code indicates price and WEIGHT. So even if you put a 99cent bar code on a case of beer, when you set it in the bag, the weight would register incorrectly and an attendent would have to come and clear the warning beep.

As mentioned, some systems use both weight and price. I know the damned self-checkout buzzers chirp endlessly if I don’t “place product in bag” or “remove item from bagging area” if it fouls up.

In both of your examples, though, it seems that there would be similar items that would be cheaper and most WalMart employees wouldn’t notice. For example, a tag from a $19.99 USB drive of much less memory. It would still ring as “USB MEMORY STICK” or whatever, assuming the cashier even pays attention in the first place.

I thought that some UPCs indicated weight as well, but I wasn’t sure if that included Walmart’s UPCs. That is why I suggested small electronics: they tend to weigh only a few pounds, making it much easier to find cheaper replacement UPCs of the same weight.

I originally had candy in mind (it’s cheap and comes in a variety of weights), but caphis’ suggestion would work much better.

There was a scam a few years ago in which the person would take a small boxed item like a toaster and remove the item from the box and fill it with smal expensive items like CDs. It would have the same approximate weight as the box description.

Someone recently got caught at Costco after filling a warehouse-style cereal box with electronics. :smack:

A UPC is just a part number, nothing more and nothing less. The scanner station looks the part number up in a central database, and the database could contain anything beyond the price; color, weight, dimensions, you name it. Whether any given scanning station uses those additional parameters is allover the map.

There are also non-UPC bar codes that get printed on things like meat and other items sold by the pound. Those codes are normally a two-part value, one part being the part number for top sirloin or whatever, and the second being the weight of this package.

One of the goals of RFID is to make this code-switching a lot harder for people to pull off. When you can’t find the tag, or it’s inside the sealed pacakge, you’ll be hard pressed to replace it with the tag from another, cheaper, item.

My bet is UPC-swapping shenigans by consumers costs most retailers a LOT of money every year. They’re trying hard to keep the lid on the knowledge becoming widespread before they can deploy RFID. Once everyone realizes they can counterfiet these things easily, it’ll be Katy bar the door.

I think they’ve been onto this and methods to combat it for a long time. I’m not sure what the latest on RFIDs is, but I think this problem is something they were designed to solve.

Of course, it’s only a matter of time before someone makes a device to recode the RFIDs, but you know…

Or what the last poster said. :smack:

Price code switching is a scam that’s been going on for decades. A former Santa Barbara City Council member was arrested for peeling a price tag off of one item at a large hardware store and putting it on a more expensive item over ten years ago before this store had scanners.