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McGuire's Casebook

The Case of the Mysterious Credit Card Double Billing

DC McGuire

DC McGuire, world-famous sleuth and parking auditor, continues his case book. This time, it's an airport fraud; however, you can certainly apply this issue to any garage
that accepts credit cards. - Editor

Today I want to tell you about a new form of fraud that is done with credit cards. The Director of Metropolis International Airport, who had heard of my reputation at solving parking lot fraud, called me: "Come out to the airport for lunch some day next week. We have a case for you."
During the lunch, the Airport Director gives me the facts. A young lady had parked at the airport and gone on a trip. When she returned, she paid her $35 parking fee with her credit card. Next month, when she got her credit card statement, she noticed two $35 airport parking charges on it.
"One was on June 13, when she returned from her trip. The other was on June 27," the Director says. "She told us she was out to the airport only once that month. She was very adamant about it, and she was very believable. She doesn't travel often. She had gone to visit her aged mother who had just had an operation."
I ask the Airport Director to get me copies of the credit card invoices for both transactions. I tell him I will try to determine how this could have happened.
Before lunch is over, the airport's Parking Manager has delivered photocopies of the two credit card transaction invoices to us. I examine the first transaction's invoice and find everything appears to be in order. After checking the second credit card invoice, I tell the Airport Director that I think I see what was done here, and that I want to talk to the cashier.
What do you think DC McGuire spotted that alerted him to what had happened?
As soon as I get the second credit card invoice in my hands, with my sharp eyes -- they were sharp in those days -- I see some printing on it: "Card Not Swiped."
I calculate that during the first transaction, the cashier, after using the proper procedure, had recorded the credit card number for future fraudulent use. Two weeks later, when a patron with a legitimate $35 parking fee paid the amount in cash, she immediately -- and fraudulently -- turned it into a credit card transaction using the young lady's purloined number.
The cashier manually entered the previously written down credit card number and rang up the cash payment as a credit card transaction. The fee computer produced a $35 receipt, which was given to the cash-paying patron, and the cashier pocketed the $35.
Laddie, the lesson to be learned here is that routine procedures can't be used when processing manually entered credit card numbers.
There are two ways to prevent this type of fraud: If your facility is large enough to warrant having a supervisor on duty for all cashier shifts, make it mandatory that the supervisor handles the transaction. If the facility's size doesn't warrant a supervisor at all times, require the cashier to obtain the phone number of the parking patron along with the patron's signature. (Some credit card transactions don't require a signature for transactions up to as high as $150.) With the telephone number, a follow-up call can be made to confirm the validity of the manual credit card transaction.
Once I uncovered this fraud, the cashier was confronted with the facts and admitted to having done it often in the past. All of that cashier's manually processed credit card invoices for the previous three months were obtained and analyzed.
It was determined that there were more than $4,500 in fraudulent charges. However, there had been no other complaints of such double billing in that 90-day period. When queried, the cashier said she had tried to select business executives who were on expense accounts and whose airport parking charges most likely wouldn't be questioned.
Her downfall was the young lady who was visiting her sick mother and had to pay the parking charges out of her own pocket.

DC McGuire is the alter ego of Consultant Larry Donoghue. He can be reached at 847-297-1180.

Article Abstract from October, 2005




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