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How to Spot a Cash Scam

Money in hand in the form of many large bills

Whether you’re a workcamper, a vendor, or offer a service, if your business involves cash, you’re likely run into someone who’ll try to pull a cash scam on you.

Common tactics are easy to spot. I’m going to share a couple of scenarios to give an idea how they develop. And you’re invited to add your experiences to the comments section. Let’s help each other protect our transactions.

Cash Scam: Razzle-Dazzle 1

Back when we owned apartments our tenants usually paid their rent in cash. Most were honest people and never raised any suspicions. But one couple never quite met that standard. Everything they did seemed to be “one-off.”

A couple of weeks before rents were due I read about a common cash scam. The scammer comes in to pay cash for something, and pulls out all his cash. As you watch, he first counts out what he owes to you. Next, he counts out what he owes for each of his other bills (utilities, food, etc.) As you can see, he has enough to pay for everything.

So, here’s where the cash scam comes in. The scammer takes back of his money and again counts out amounts starting, now, with utilities and all of his other bills. With that money on the table he hands you the remainder, which you just saw, should be what he owes you. He hopes you won’t notice that he counted out an extra bill or two. And that reduces the amount remaining, which he hands you. If you don’t count it out again, immediately, you’ll be shorted and, later, may not know how it happened.

You might think this is silly, but it’s the razzle-dazzle surrounding the transaction that distracts you, leaving you to assume that he handed you the correct amount of money.

When rents came due I almost burst out laughing when our “one-off” tenant came in, sat down, started counting out money to pay the rent, then the utilities, etc., talking all the time. Then he put on his, “Oh, I lost count, let me do this again,” routine. As he started counting in the reverse, starting with the utilities first, I just told him to simply count out what he owed for rent and take care of his other bills privately. Apparently he’d just read the same article.

Cash-Scam Razzle Dazzle 2

Perry tells me of another scam. Three employees of a neighboring business came in because one, the woman, wanted to cash her paycheck. The clerk had cashed their checks many times before, so this wasn’t unusual.

The woman asked to cash her check. The clerk noticed that the check wasn’t signed and gave it back to her to sign. As she was signing the check, the clerk began counting out the cash to give her.

Meanwhile, her two companions were talking to her about paying them back some amount she apparently owed them. There was some commotion about the denominations they wanted.

So, after the clerk had already counted out the right amount of cash, the woman asked for different denominations than what the clerk was handing her. So, he put some of the cash back and drew other bills out.

The three changed their minds a few times, and the clerk exchanged bills each time the three decided they wanted different denominations.

Although the clerk did a final and correct count of the amount he handed the woman, the distraction was enough for him to forget to get the check back from her. She walked away with both her check and the cash.

Most of you aren’t going to cash paychecks. But, it could work the same if the customer asked to write the check for a few dollars over the sale amount.

The Common Denominator

You can see the common tactic with these cash scams is confusion, or razzle-dazzle. To ensure you don’t get caught up in these schemes, ask the customer to resolve unrelated issues privately, then come back to pay for their purchase when they have it resolved. Or, just ask if they want to purchase/pay what they owe, and ask that they put all the other conversation aside until the transaction is completed.

If they persist, tell them that it’s beginning to look like they’re pulling an age-old scam. Ask them to leave and turn to another customer or task. You might lose that sale, but, chances are, they never intended to purchase anything, anyway.

If you’ve had some razzle-dazzle experiences, please tell us how you spotted or avoided them. Scroll down to the comments section and tell us about the scams people have tried to pull on you.

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