'Mike' Strikes Again in Scam, Successfully This Time

All-too-familiar con man finds a mark in 23-year-old clerk at drug store.

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.

Jim Price July 08, 2011 at 12:13 PM
Yes, Sarah, you would think anybody entrusted with access to the safe would know better – and yet I know of at least three instances in which the perpetrator has pulled this off. I would guess that in the event a corporation decided to reconcile a claim, it would pay it with a check sent by registered mail, not by sending a kid with a bag of cash to meet a stranger on a street corner.
Michele Braze July 08, 2011 at 01:20 PM
He got his mom to drop him off at 12th & State? With a bag full of cash? Sounds like mom's not too smart either.
jbw July 08, 2011 at 02:38 PM
That's the way "social engineering" works. It's easy to mistakenly let your guard down when a slick operator approaches you as someone friendly and familiar, and they express need for help that only you can provide. Basically it preys upon our natural instincts and compassion. This guy also capitalizes on the insecurities of the young employees by pretending to be a big corporate figure who knows more about these "special procedures" than they do, so they won't want to question. If the employee was explicitly told to always contact the manager before withdrawing any money, and that he would never be penalized for doing so, things might be different.
Dick at SCORE July 08, 2011 at 09:11 PM
As always, the first place to look for blame (other than the criminal himself) in this type of scam is management. To wit: -All employees should be trained to recognize the more common kinds of scams. -No non-manager should be authorized to give anything more than a coupon to a customer or anyone else who enters the store. -Entry to the safe should be limited to managers. Not shift supervisors, managers only, which in the case of this relatively small CVS store should be no more than 2-4 persons. All safes are equipped with drop slots so any employee could put money into the safe, (and it should be policy that frequent safe drops are required, to minimize the exposure in the registers) but only managers can open the safes to remove money. The GM of this store is to blame for poor training and bad cash handling policy, not the 23-year-old clerk, who was given responsibility way beyond his level of training and experience. And CVS corporate possibly shares the blame for not having clear policies and training procedures to prevent such losses.
Meghan July 09, 2011 at 07:22 PM
The same thing happened to my husbands coworker at an auto parts store in Wauwatosa ( not saying the name cause it was not reported). Someone called knew all of the names of the employee's and even some of the other managers from other stores. The caller stated that someone had left a wallet in the store and when it was returned it was missing $1500 in cash. The caller told my husbands coworker to open the safe and take the money out and someone would be by in less than a hour. My husbands coworker was on the phone with this guy for almost 2 hours. Thank God my husband and his coworker were smart, but another store in Milwaukee was not so lucky they lost close to $1000.


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