It has happened over and over again, and Wauwatosa Patch has repeatedly since the beginning of April – a confidence game played at retail chain stores and restaurants in which a caller pretending to be a corporate officer tries to talk an employee into turning over large amounts of cash.
In most cases, someone smells the rat and refuses to go through with the drop, but in several instances "Mike" or "Mark" "from corporate" has managed to convince young clerks or assistant managers to open the safe.
That's what happened June 30 to a 23-year-old clerk at pharmacy, 7520 W. Blue Mound Rd.
He reported that he had been the victim of fraud when a caller, “Mike,” claimed to be from CVS corporate offices and was trying to reconcile with a woman who said she had left her wallet in the store. He said that when she recovered it, all her cash was missing, she was angry, and she wanted the company to make good.
The clerk believed every word, and didn't want to or see the need to check with the store manager, who was on vacation.
At the urging of "Mike," the clerk took an undisclosed amount of cash from the store safe and had his mother drive him to deliver it to a man waiting at West State and North 12th streets. The man receiving the money presented no identification and walked away as soon as he had the money in his hand.
The clerk said he suddenly felt uneasy the moment he handed over the cash, but that was too late.
The clerk said he was taken in because “Mike” seemed familiar with CVS employees and their working hours, including the fact that his supervisor was not present.
Managers of chain outlets should be aware that this has been an ongoing scam, with the caller giving his first name as Mike or Mark and his last name as either Stern or Stein. The story always involves an angry customer who has left a purse or wallet with a large amount of cash, which was supposedly pilfered by an employee before the customer returned for it.
In past cases, the police have never gotten a lead on the crook because store employees either hung up or got duped. So police ask that if you recognize the scam, you should play along and agree to the time and place for the cash drop, then call police and let them keep the appointment.