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Barcode Scam Redux - Target's $4.99 iPod 1014

Posted by Zonk
from the poor-choices dept.
abscondment writes "Nearly a year ago, two couples were charged with scamming WalMart for nearly $1.5 Million by creating custom barcodes with reduced prices. You'd think that in the intervening months, other companies would guard against such shenanigans - but today we see that Target just caught a scammer buying iPods for $4.99! The 19 year old used BarCode Magic to create fake barcodes, buying expensive electronics suspiciously low prices. Personally, I would have gone for a less blatant discount, or refrained from visiting the same store so soon afterwards."
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Barcode Scam Redux - Target's $4.99 iPod

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  • by jmp_nyc (895404) * on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:30PM (#14181404)
    Of course, we only hear about the ones stupid enough to get caught. I wonder what percentage of people attempting barcode scams aren't caught (or publicized, to save the store embarrassment). Similarly, I wonder if stories like this increase or reduce the number of people trying these scams...
    -JMP
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:32PM (#14181414)
      Increase for sure, I'm going to try this tomorrow morning.

      Don't mod this funny.
      • by 084883447 (915588) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:07PM (#14181619)
        Theft is something that the big box stores build into their margins. For example, they know that some percentage (surprisingly large) will walk out the door, either in customer's or employee's hands (i call it shrinkage). They will price their products that much higher to make up for the loss. Usually, they dont spend that much on theft deterrance, because it really is a loosing battle, and they risk alienating their real customers.

        So, the moral of the story is: if you must steal, steal from the big box stores because they have already accounted for you.
        • by Fjornir (516960) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:39PM (#14181805)
          While you are right that the big box stores do adjust their pricing to make up for the loss, a lot of that money you're foolish to think that they're not watching you. True, they're not interested in "deterrance [sic]" -- but they are definately interested in stopping thieves (and that knowledge is certainly a deterrent to some, I'm sure).

          The fact is that a candy bar or an iPod doesn't impact them all that much. But even those add up fast. But the real damage comes from people who find a decent grift and work it well. That can add up to a serious pile of money fast -- doubly bad if their scam takes money out of the registers and into the pockets of the naughty boys.

        • by Zleeper (189901) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:51PM (#14181864)
          No, silly, the moral to the story is to just print all sorts of bar codes and just put it on items on the shelves and leave them there. 1 per model. Then the store will spend inordinate amount of effort to keep track of these ridiculous bar codes, and in the interim, some people will inadvertently get a "bargain" they didn't realize.
          Fun, fun, fun.
        • by melikamp (631205) on Monday December 05, 2005 @12:28AM (#14182437) Homepage Journal

          if you must steal, steal from the big box stores because they have already accounted for you.

          I worked for a while for Fry brothers, in the loss prevention department. The attitude there is just the opposite of "it's been accounted for". While they, no doubt, have to adjust their pricing due to theft, you should know that they are doing everything they can to minimize the losses -- all the way to zero.

          One way they do it is, of course, by increasing security. And the other way -- by having employees (mostly managers) to pay for stolen items out of their own pay checks (so they do at Fry's -- I don't know about other stores). I have been treated to a tale about one courageous manager who literally dragged a customer out of his car through the window, because the latter was about to drive away without paying for his new car audio system.

          The moral is: stealing is difficult and risky, regardless of the store size. And I would say, it only gets harder as the potential loss goes up. If you want to have it easy, you have to steal something that no one else is stealing, but then you won't be stealing anything worthwhile :)

          • by AndroidCat (229562) on Monday December 05, 2005 @02:37AM (#14183004) Homepage
            they are doing everything they can to minimize the losses -- all the way to zero.

            Only to zero? If they were creative, they'd have a few store pickpockets on the floor--they'd soon be showing a profit in the security dept!

          • by Browncoat (928784) on Monday December 05, 2005 @03:16AM (#14183131)
            I used to work for Victoria's Secret (yes, I'm a girl) and we were told that if someone was stealing and you saw them steal, you can't do anything about it until they leave the store. The key is to call security and have them at the door, waiting for them to leave. Or, have security walk through the store and become a presence to everyone, so the thief will hopefully put back whatever he/she took.

            As far as I know, from the time I was there, we haven't had to call security to physically stop anyone. Their presence was pretty much all it took for us to know that we at least minimized the theft, even if they did end up making out with some merchandise.

        • Sorry, but you're really incorrect there on a lot of counts. First, shrinkage as a percent of sales due to theft has actually shrunk in the past few years, mostly due to enormous investments in loss prevention systems and paid restitution from the theives they've caught. Yes, the major retailers account for shrinkage in the price, but they also spend incredible amounts of money on anti-theft systems. They'll even push the limits of alienating their best customers to stop thieves. And they will announce
    • by toddbu (748790) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:33PM (#14181421)
      I think that the bigger question is how much it costs to prevent such theft. If it doesn't happen often, why would a store put in a permanent fix for the problem? They don't station security guards at the end of every aisle to prevent casual stealing, so why is this any different?
      • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@nosPam.keirstead.org> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:50PM (#14181506) Homepage

        If it doesn't happen often, why would a store put in a permanent fix for the problem?

        They already have. It's called RFID. If you have been around this site for the past two years, you've probably heard of it.

        It's much harder to forge an RFID tag unless you have the private key of the transmitter, or have some high-tech spy equipment that can capture the entire negotiation stream between the transmitter and target to crack it later... and the cost of doing either of these things would be prohibitive to anyone who wants to make money off shoplifting (you'd be better off planning a bank robbery).

        • by stienman (51024) <`moc.scisabu' `ta' `sivada'> on Monday December 05, 2005 @12:25AM (#14182421) Homepage Journal
          It's much harder to forge an RFID tag

          True.

          unless you have the private key of the transmitter, or have some high-tech spy equipment that can capture the entire negotiation stream between the transmitter and target to crack it later... and the cost of doing either of these things would be prohibitive to anyone who wants to make money off shoplifting (you'd be better off planning a bank robbery).

          False. The stores aren't going to spend more than a penny or so per tag, and the tags will not be encrypted. They will have individual id numbers, though, and these will be stored in a database - much like a serial number. So you'll have to scan an existing unsold item in the store and duplicate that tag onto your target item. This is going to be difficult and expensive, since you have to disable the existing tag (inside the packaging) and add your own tag in an unobtrusive manner.

          It is harder than barcodes, which anyone can print from their own computer. But I doubt retailers are going to be employing anything more than the simplest 64 or 128 bit ID. These can still be duplicated with a simple circuit (coil, a few passives, maybe a tiny battery) and microcontroller. Should be small enough to fit under a sticker: "New! Improved!" or "2 Year Warranty!" or "Newspeak V5.2 Included!"

          The real deterrent is that when they scan the item you stole the tag from, they'll notice it's been sold, and a stock check will show up the missing item you stole. Since they are tagged with serial numbers they can track down your transaction. With even the time, date, and cash register number they'll be able to pull up camera footage if you were smart enough to pay cash. If not then they'll have lots of electronic information about your CC, debit card, or check to track you down with.

          The biggest advantage to using RFID is not easier and more accurate scanning, it's that every item in the store now has a serial number and exists in the database. Better stock control will improve the bottom line - this is Walmart's biggest strength. If everyone goes to RFID then Walmart will have many more significant competitors since a lot of the operation they've worked so hard on is built into the whole RFID system. Perhaps one reason why they aren't pushing it so hard.

          -Adam
      • It is also insufficient just to get the discount. For example, if I were a prankster, I would copy the barcode, alter it, print out on labels, put them on items, and put the items back on the shelf, you know, with bogus prices.

        $4.99 for an Ipod. $300 for a DVD, you know. Worse, I would then put a bunch of stickers on with prices that are close but not perfect. 10% off some items, 10% more on others.
    • by bjwest (14070) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:51PM (#14181514)
      The crime is in getting caught? No, the crime was in fraudulently purchasing items. What's wrong with today's youth that think it's not cheating or stealing if you don't get caught? No wonder crime is such a problem. You need to grow up and realize that breaking the rules/law is wrong whether or not you get caught.
      • by slavemowgli (585321) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @11:38PM (#14182156) Homepage

        You need to grow up and realize that breaking the rules/law is wrong whether or not you get caught.

        That's not true. Violating basic ethical principles is wrong; and of course, laws ideally should embody these, but they don't always do that, and in cases where they're not - especially cases where the law is actually opposed to those principles -, it's not wrong in an ethical sense to break the law.

        Not that that's the case here, of course; sticking custom bar codes on stuff in order to pay a lower price is pretty much a textbook example of fraud, I think. But I think it's worth keeping in mind that you should follow the law because it's what's right, not simply because it's "the law".

      • by Jerk City Troll (661616) on Monday December 05, 2005 @12:55AM (#14182571) Homepage

        You need to grow up and realize that breaking the rules/law is wrong whether or not you get caught.

        I would like to point out that it is the previous generation(s) who hold positions of influence in business and government routinely get away with henious crimes. (Take small sentences [businessweek.com] for destroying retirement funds for thousands of people [wikipedia.org], among other things.) We frequently see the wealthy and powerful get away with minor punishments that are effectively summed up as serving a prison sentence on a yaht in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, our society is replete with cases of minor offenses being punished beyond any reasonable severity. ($250,000 and larger fines for music swappers [techspot.com], or felony charges for young children reading passwords printed on their computers [berksmontnews.com], for example.) If I was a young person, I would be extremely confused. Does this mean that the more serious your crimes are, the less serious the consequences? Does this mean I can do whatever I want if I am affluent? Given that getting into some trouble is part of youth, this makes for a dangerous influence. There are also plenty of cases where breaking the law is not “wrong”, so we cannot treat this as an absolute either. What Rosa Parks [wikipedia.org] did was not wrong or unethical (quite the opposite), but it was most certainly against the rules.

        So, you are absolutely correct that stealing is wrong, as is breaking most laws. However, I think we as a society need to do a few things (which come to mind) if we are to have any success in reducing crime. First, the punishments must fit the crime. Copying digital music should not have equal or worse consequences to stealing millions, perhaps billions from a corporation. Murder is a felony charge, not typing a password printed on the bottom of your laptop. You get the idea. Second, we must teach people how to properly evaluate laws and whether or not they are just. This is intrinsic to the continued operation of our democracy but it is hardly given any treatment. People must be able to determine which laws are reasonable insofar as the gravity of violations, and which laws must be disobeyed for the greater good. Third, we need to restore equal application under law irregardless of political, social, or economic standing. Today, the wealthy can afford good lawyers who are better versed in the law and thus finding loopholes. Meanwhile, the poor rarely have competent defense. This is very biased, and aside from being unfair and unjust, it also leads to further crime (these cycles are much more likely to be perpetuated in the lower classes).

      • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday December 05, 2005 @01:04AM (#14182621) Homepage Journal
        Today's youth? You mean like the Congressmen and corporate CEOs who gave been making the news lately? Remember that Congressman last week? The one who was tearfully resigning because he'd got caught taking bribes? And he started crying during his resignation speech? Well if he really cared about that crap he was talking about at the time (The trust of his family or some such) he wouldn't have taken the bribes in the first place. He was a happy camper until he got caught. That's what he was really crying about. Life was good until he got caught. Live was good for those Tycho guys, the Enron guys, the MCI guy, Martha Stewart... All right up until they got caught. You going to point your finger at the kids and ask what is wrong with them? Well they don't have very good role models, for one thing.
    • Old news... +ORC (Score:5, Informative)

      by purduephotog (218304) <.hirsch. .at. .inorbit.com.> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:58PM (#14181560) Homepage Journal
      Way back in the beginning of the Internet (Yes, kiddies, there was such a time) a man known only as +ORC wrote about 'codebaring' as he called it. He also spoke about the supermarket enslavement as to why supermarkets force you to go both counterclockwise and why they put all sorts of greenery and colours right when you enter.

      His name- +ORC. To this day no one knows who he was, but his faithful servant, +Fravia, kept his vigil for a number of years. When Anon.penet.fi went down he melted away.

      http://www.totse.com/en/hack/magnetic_stripes_and_ other_data_formats/161810.html
      http://www.woodmann.com/fravia/orc.htm
    • by Seumas (6865) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:05PM (#14181603)
      I don't see what the big deal is. A five year old could so this. In fact, as a five year old 23 years ago - I *DID* do this.

      I wanted one toy really bad and knew my mom wouldn't buy it for me, so I switched the price (it wasn't a barcode back then, of course) and convinced my mom to get it for me. It caused so many troubles for the people at the cash register that they eventually gave up trying to figure out why the price and item didn't match each other and felt bad for taking up so much of our time with their screwups that they just GAVE it to me and let us walk out.

      Being a little kid kicks so much ass because nobody ever suspects what a criminal little fuck you are.
    • by Ratbert42 (452340) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @11:18PM (#14182040)
      What's interesting is that he's facing a felony count because he used the old barcode trick. If he'd just stuffed it down his pants and walked out he'd just have a misdemeanor theft. Did any of us realize that printing a label raised the stakes so much?
  • Class 5 felony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon (813062) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:32PM (#14181412)
    The 19-year-old is facing three counts of being naughty - one of them a Class 5 felony.

    Ouch, ... that's gonna leave a mark...

    • Re:Class 5 felony (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vishbar (862440) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:59PM (#14181568)
      From TFA:

      He faces a felony count of forgery and two misdemeanor counts of theft.

      I find it interesting that forgery was the charge that carries the greatest clout. Looks like he would have been better off if he just stuck the iPod under his jacket. It almost seems like he's being punished more for subverting the store's security system than for the actual theft of the property. Is it normal to charge a bar-code switcher with forgery? In the lego case [slashdot.org] it seems as if he was charged with theft rather than forgery.

      Either way, you're right...he's going to have a tough time finding a job after college with this on his record...

      • Re:Class 5 felony (Score:5, Insightful)

        by alienw (585907) <alienw.slashdot@g m a il.com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:24PM (#14181727)
        Well, it would be kind of hard to walk out the store with an iPod under his jacket, wouldn't it now? Hence the forgery charge. If you just try to steal something, you'll probably get caught, so the punishment is not too severe. More sophisticated schemes merit more significant charges.
      • Re:Class 5 felony (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        I saw a young girl getting a speaking to by a local transit cop about her fake transit pass. Apparently that can be counted as forgery too. He just fined her under local bylaws, which ends up being a pretty hefty fine, way more than hte bus pass. Anyway, not sure if he was just trying to scare her, or whether he was telling the truth, But I think forgery of almost anything can be counted as forgery. Anyway, it probably wasn't worth their time to go through a whole trial and all. She looked plenty scar
        • Re:Class 5 felony (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jamesh (87723)
          I think the idea is that theft can just be opportunistic, you see something there and decide to put it under your coat. It's also harder to enforce in a lot of cases, and sometimes the motive can be hunger or mental illness (okay not really a motive but you see what i'm getting at).

          Forgery though almost always implies premeditation. You can't just say "It was a spur of the moment thing, I don't know why I did it and i am truly sorry". The only expression of regret you can really give in a case of forgery is
    • Re:Class 5 felony (Score:5, Insightful)

      by magarity (164372) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:26PM (#14181742)
      Ouch, ... that's gonna leave a mark
       
      Well, are we supposed to have much sympathy for him? He is a thief after all. And he doesn't help his own case by being such a whiner:
       
        "Baldino wrote in a statement for police. "Please let me go for I am terribly sorry!!! I'm only a kid! Help me out. I just want to go home. I am extremely sad now, and I just want to go to bed," he wrote. "Please let me sleep in my own bed tonight."
       
      Waaaa. Sounds like a spoiled kid who was never told "no" by Mom and Dad.
    • Ouch, ... that's gonna leave a mark...

      This aint Singapore you know? ^_^

  • by JonathanR (852748) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:32PM (#14181413)
    It's a bit obvious when the iPod you are about to buy rings up as a packet of Salt'n'Vinegar Crisps
  • by Skadet (528657) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:33PM (#14181415) Homepage
    Personally, I would have gone for a less blatant discount, or refrained from visiting the same store so soon afterwards.

    Personally, I would have been honest.
    • That wouldn't occur to some people.
  • by the_humeister (922869) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:34PM (#14181425)
    $4.99 for a $150 Ipod? And why didn't the cashier notice? Of course, he tries to do it again, but the article doesn't say if it's the same Target. If it is, what a moron. Go to a different store (if you're so ethically declined).
    • Perhaps you've never worked at such a fine retail establishment as Target, but as someone who has I will tell you that the cashier was most likely not stupid, he just simply didn't care. He doesn't get a bonus for catching theives like the guy with the $4.99 iPod, and after ringing up thousands for purchases for hours on end, day after day, he probably just got tired and didn't really notice the iPod ringing up cheap. Personally I never paid attention to what items were being purchased or what the compute
      • by mariox19 (632969) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:13PM (#14181664)

        You're right about the clerk just not caring. And I'm sure you'll agree that it's Target's fault.

        About eight years ago I was with a friend when she bought a $2,800 Macintosh from CompUSA for $1,400. Somehow, the computer running pricing had gotten misprogrammed, and as a result, all Macintosh models -- from the lowly entry-level desktop, to the top-of-the-line tower model -- were given the same sale price.

        I was with my friend helping her pick out a computer. She was going to get the entry-level model, but on a whim asked how much the tower was selling for. When the clerk told us, I asked him to double check, because I knew that towers (at the time) started at $1,900. As we both bent down to check the SKU, I saw that this was the top-of-the-line model. He confirmed that it was selling for $1,300. I recommended to my friend that she purchase it.

        If this were a mom and pop shop, I would have put a stop to the problem right then and there. But, you know what? I figured this is the cost of doing business the way these big shops do it. They hire kids, pay them peanuts, give them little or no training, and basically tell them, "Don't think! Just do what the computer tells you to do." If that's how you put together your sales force, then you'll have to eat these losses when they come along.

        The sick thing is, the accountants at CompUSA probably had it all figured out -- staff compensation versus shrinkage -- and decided they'd make more money this way.

        I'm not advocating stealing, but I shed no tears for these stores when their employees pay so little attention.

      • At the end of the day, inventory gets taken and if items sold don't match up to cash in registers, there's a problem. His scheme could have (not definately, but there is a chance) been discovered, and then it would have been a simple matter of looking at the security tapes and seeing who the offender is.

        Working at a small retail shop, I'd have to disagree with that. Even being a small store with a small showroom, we do not do inventory more than once every 2 weeks - usually once a month. I can't imagine a
        • You know, all of us Slashdotters would notice a problem if we saw an iPod ring up for $5. HOWEVER, would you notice if, say, some jewelry or makeup or medicine rang up for a similarly low price? I probably wouldn't! Similarly, there's a lot of non-geeks who probably wouldn't notice anything wrong about the iPod.
      • by vloktboky (936167) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @11:40PM (#14182169) Homepage
        If you do or did work for Target, then you should also know that those IPods are kept under key lock and are handled by whomever is working in the Electronics Department from the moment they are taken out of the lock case to the moment for which they are paid. I held the position of Electronics Specialist at a local Target store; I would be quite furious if someone from my team would let an IPod leave the store at $4.99.

        Quite frankly, I am baffled as to how this person could have managed to place a fake barcode on the IPod itself. For starters, the barcode on the IPod is a very slim one burried beside two other barcodes - the serial and one other one which I can't remember. When an IPod is taken out of the lock cases, they are either paid for at the department's registers or they are taken up to the front lanes and placed in a special location. The cashiers, or at the very least, the GSTL should have kept an eye on this IPod and whatever was left up there. The only way I can imagine this could be done is if the person asked for the IPod to be taken up front, managed to grab it without anyone noticing, placed the fake barcode on the device, then put it back and went to stand in one of the lane's lines to have the unfortunate cashier grab it and ring it up. But at this time of the year, my old store (and myself) would have made it a rule by now not to bring any locked merchandise up to the checklanes and force the guests to pay for it back in the department or hold on to it in a locked drawer by our "boat" or desk area where the registers are kept until the guest was ready to pay for it. There should have been no way for this person to place a fake barcode on the IPod without a Target Team Member noticing, let alone have it ring up at such a price and not fool the Team Member.

        I'm also having a hard time trying to understand how the fake barcode was even detected by the systems. Target uses the DCPIs of the item, a 9 digit department-class-item relationship that looks like xxx-xx-xxxx. They don't use the UPCs; they match them to the DCPIs. All of these are kept in a system database; if you enter one that isn't on that database, it comes up on the registers saying "Item not on file." So he had to have used one that matched up with an existing DCPI at $4.99 which means the item description and even the department/class number should have been totally different from what the standard IPod's barcode comes up with.

        I believe whatever Target store this was, their STL, ETL-AP, ETL-HL, and Electonics Team Lead should all be questioned about their neglegance, not just the person who rang it up at that price with a fake barcode and let them get away with it.
      • by Manchot (847225) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @11:56PM (#14182269)
        When I was in high school two years ago, I worked as a cashier at an urban Target. As you can imagine, it had a fairly high shoplifiting rate, and people tried to pull scams like these all the time. Typically, it would manifest itself as someone taking a bar code from something like a potted plant (which had sticker barcodes) and sticking it over the real one. From the first time that I first noticed this a couple weeks after I started, to a year and a half later when I left for college, I probably saved the company about $3000 through catching this fraud alone. The trick was to glance at the display for all items that looked expensive to me. However, aside from the pat on the back and the free $10 DVD that I got after saving the store $300 in one transaction, I never saw a dime of that. (Actually, that $300 one was really clever: he managed to graft a couple of those souped-up Playstations with the label of a regular, old Playstation, so that come transaction time, the computer still said "Playstation.") Granted, assets protection (i.e., the security team) loved me, and it probably didn't hurt me come review/raise time. I never even had the satisfaction of seeing any of those people get arrested, because once they noticed that the jig was up, they found an excuse to leave as quickly as they could. (Also, Target had a policy of not arresting until they had definitive proof of shoplifting, i.e., camera footage. In this case, they'd have to trace back the person's motion through the cameras to when the label was fraudulently placed, a fairly time consuming process. Otherwise, they could get sued.)
    • by dzarn (760066) <dzarn+slashdot@[ ... t ['amo' in gap]> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:53PM (#14181530)
      Yep, it was the same store. I live in Boulder, and we only have one Target. I'm tempted to swing by his dorm and ask him if he's always been this stupid, or was born that way....
      • Have you ever spent a day as a cashier? Trust me, when your boss says "You have to scan so many items per minute", you don't give a flying fuck what price something comes up as (most don't even take the time to look at the screen). All you care about is getting however many items over the till per minute. And when you have some cashiers doing over 100 items a minute(yes, it is possible), they don't scan *check screen*, scan *check screen*, they scan scan scan scan without looking.

        Then, take into account tha
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:43PM (#14181826)
      Some stores have a pretty strict "honor the sticker price" policy. I'm not sure why, false advertising lawsuits maybe, but at any rate. Happened to my father at Sears once. He was buying a tool, a fairly expensive one, and it rang up for half the listed price. He told the clerk that was a mistake, but the clerk said didn't matter, you got the lowest price.

      I don't know about Target, but maybe it's similar. They may tell cashiers to simply give items to a person for the price that's rung up to avoid problems.
      • by Deadstick (535032) on Monday December 05, 2005 @12:27AM (#14182431)
        Sears used to be famous for those errors, especially in the catalog department. I haven't shopped there in many years, but in the Seventies you had the option of buying items off the counters or ordering them from Catalog Sales, usually for a slightly lower price. You would go to a desk back by the loading dock, fill out an order and pay for it...and then you'd pick it up a week or so later.

        The kicker was that since you paid in advance, you paid for what you ordered -- which might or might not be what you got. Orders were filled by warehousemen working from carbon copies of hand-scrawled forms, and it wasn't the least unusual to pay for a wrench and get a drill press...and if the error went the other way, you could always refuse it.

        Something similar would happen with warranty returns...failed tools were exchanged for rebuilt ones, and they were even less accurate at matching those up.

        rj
  • by dirtsurfer (595452) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:35PM (#14181430) Journal
    "I will NEVER EVER DO THIS EVER AGAIN and I am once more terribly sorry," Baldino wrote in a statement for police. "Please let me go for I am terribly sorry!!! I'm only a kid! Help me out. I just want to go home. I did this not knowing of the serious penalty that lies behind it. Please! Please! Please!"


    Oh. Well, in that case, off you go.
  • by Reaperducer (871695) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:35PM (#14181432)
    You'd think that in the intervening months, other companies would guard against such shenanigans

    They're working on it. It's called RFID. Soon only people with tinfoil hats will be able to shoplift.
  • by Have Blue (616) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:37PM (#14181441) Homepage
    What happened to "Personally, I would have not considered committing fraud in the first place"?
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:37PM (#14181445)
    Busted, Baldino begged for a little yuletide forgiveness.
    "I will NEVER EVER DO THIS EVER AGAIN and I am once more terribly sorry," Baldino wrote in a statement for police. "Please let me go for I am terribly sorry!!! I'm only a kid! Help me out. I just want to go home. I did this not knowing of the serious penalty that lies behind it. Please! Please! Please!"

    Hey, kid...out in the real world, there are real world consequences. Your mom is not there to pick up the pieces.

  • The real thieves... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:45PM (#14181473) Homepage Journal
    ...are usually the employees.

    I knew a kid who worked at a Best Buy with a bunch of his friends. They all were caught months later running a register scam. They'd ring up a friend who bought maybe 6 CDs, a VCR and a TV. They'd "forget" to scan the TV, and the friend would roll right out with the helper employee (another scammer) and put the TV in a car. They did this for months and finally got caught.

    Another scammer I met (who didn't do jail time) used to be in charge of returns. He would check returns for completeness, put it back together, reshrink wrap the item and stick it back on the floor. Oh, he also threw other expensive items in the box. His friend would come, buy the $19.99 big box radio, and walk out with hundreds of items. Since the item was shrink wrapped, no one caught on for months.

    I thought of the barcode scan YEARS ago when I found a barcode scanner at a garage sale. This is pre-USB days. I messed with barcodes for weeks, and figured one could print barcodes onto a label and stick it on a box. I never did it (even though I am an anarchocapitalist and anti-government/anti-mercantilism, I would never steal), but I can't believe it took this long for stores to see the problem.

    The solution is one-time use barcodes. It isn't as bad as you'd think for the big box stores. When a skid is received, it has two barcodes on the packing list: first code, last code. The employee scans both (say 1111183.17 and 1111183.234) and the system registers all the item codes and the unique codes. If the register scans a duplicate, there's a problem.

    The other solution is already in place in Home Depot and grocery stores -- the self checkout. You can't buy an item without weighing it. I believe Best Buy and Circuit City are already starting to work on incorporating scale barcode scanners that weigh the item when they scan it.

    I've considered starting a security company for ma-and-pa stores to battle these forms of theft. There are many ways a store can protect itself, but the best way is to have intelligent staff who aren't helping the thieves. Good luck there.
    • by alienw (585907)
      You can't buy an item without weighing it.

      Unless you hit "Skip Bagging", that is. Which I always do for _all_ the items because the scales are very screwy. Nobody seems to care. Of course, there is usually a cashier who sees everything you are buying anyway.
    • I think the self checkouts cause more problems than they solve. Some of the ones I've used were horribly slow, some were misaligned such that the bar code would only read at a specific height *above* the glass. Some were simply erratic or otherwise failure prone.

      On average, the systems were twice to four times as slow as using a cashier and still required one or two people watching four machines, nullifying the cost, time and labor savings. Or I could choose the *one* open cash register that has a long l
    • Agreed!

      My *deli* has unique UPC codes on each sandwich it sells. It's not that hard to implement if you've got the drive to do it. The system easily pays for itself in the increased efficency of the store, and probably helps reduce theft -- you can't pick up your sandiwch until you've paid.

      You place your order on a touchscreen kiosk, get a receipt with the UPC printed on it, shop around for your other items, check out and pay, get the receipt stamped PAID, and then pick up your sandwich.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "They'd "forget" to scan the TV, and the friend would roll right out with the helper employee (another scammer) and put the TV in a car."

      My sis manages a large department store as she is the capitalist of the family.

      Every few months, she use to come to me asking if I could burn some videotape to DVD or print out stills. The funniest one was where one of the employees rang up $30 for 3 cart loads of clothing...they kept coming and coming and coming and the assistant manager actually helped the thieves out t
  • by chicagotypewriter (933271) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:45PM (#14181475)
    In a follow-up statement to police, he wrote: "I am extremely sad now, and I just want to go to bed," he wrote. "Please let me sleep in my own bed tonight."

    Well if you put it that way, sure, hop right out of jail and into your comfy bed.
  • by kefoo (254567) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:47PM (#14181486)
    This reminds me of my days as a pizza restaurant shift manager. A customer who thought he was brilliant cut out one of our logos from an ad and taped it onto a competitor's coupon. The delivery driver didn't recognize the coupon, and when he saw the tape he peeled it off in front of the customer who, of course, pleaded ignorance.
    • by twitter (104583) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:04PM (#14181601) Homepage Journal
      A customer who thought he was brilliant cut out one of our logos from an ad and taped it onto a competitor's coupon. The delivery driver didn't recognize the coupon, and when he saw the tape he peeled it off in front of the customer who, of course, pleaded ignorance.

      The customer might have been ignorant. There are dirt bags who sell "discount" coupons, much like gift checks to the unwary. It sounds like a good deal for everyone, except the vouchers are little more than coppies made with some image manipulation program. The scam is prevalent in college towns with foreign students.

      Other pranks have been committed like this without a profit motive. There have been several cases of people making bogus coupons and emailing them as chain spam. Store clerks often take them without knowing any better.

      The silly world of coupons, gift cards and other marketing ploys invites this kind of abuse. That's why they are a stupid idea to begin with. An honest price well advertised is a better deal.

      • by eyeball (17206)
        Other pranks have been committed like this without a profit motive. There have been several cases of people making bogus coupons and emailing them as chain spam. Store clerks often take them without knowing any better.

        Reminds me of a nonsense prank my wife did while driving across country. When she went though a town she'd go through a few parking lots and collect flyers from car windshields that were advertising local (non-chain) restaurants. She's save them and put them on cars a few states away.

        I love he
  • by skingers6894 (816110) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:50PM (#14181509)
    I can get an iRiver for $4.75 and it does OGG as well!
  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:51PM (#14181512) Homepage
    Dear Slashdot readers,

    We at Target would like to thank all of you for publicize this story, but more importantly helping us stop these scams by turning Barcode Magic's web server into a pile molten metal. As you are all surely aware, a site that allows users to print up barcodes is up to no good and deserve to be "Slashdotted", to use the common parlance of our times. We thank you for your vigilante justice. Consider it as a service to all the shoppers at Target. The prevention of future scams will result in savings passed onto the our shoppers, and not into the pocket of our executives.

    Sincerely, Target "Walmart, without all the Lower Class"

  • by ubergrits (885297) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:51PM (#14181516)
    TFA reads basically as a step-by-step guide to teach any-and-everyone how to (at least attempt to) pull off a similar barcode scam. From the googling for the name of the barcode software, to outlining his method for affixing the faux-UPCs to the box and then looking for relatively ignorant checkout cashiers to use...this article explains it all. Hell, it even mentions that the 'Barcode Magic' software has a 15-day free trial. My quetions: (1) How in the hell is that relevant to the article? and (2) How many kiddies are now going to read this, download the software, and start perpetrating their own scams? Sheesh...
    • TFA reads basically as a step-by-step guide [...]

      I'm not sure that's a bad thing. For one, it might help convince retailers to improve their security setup so that this type of exploit is no longer valid. That would prevent a lot of loss; perhaps with more short-term expense than they would have liked.

      Also, it's evolution in action: I think everything illegal should be posted on the web with instructions and links to suppliers (who may or may not be in collusion with the authorities!).

      Then, when

    • TFA reads basically as a step-by-step guide to teach any-and-everyone how to (at least attempt to) pull off a similar barcode scam.

      Yes, that's right. Because if there is even the slightest chance that information could be used in a manner that breaks a law, then it must be locked up in a deep dark hole somewhere so no one can ever find it or show it to--God forbid--the general public. The "public" will most certainly use the information as soon as possible to break every law they can think of.

      Now if you'll
  • Lord. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dswensen (252552) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:52PM (#14181522) Homepage
    "I will NEVER EVER DO THIS EVER AGAIN and I am once more terribly sorry," Baldino wrote in a statement for police. "Please let me go for I am terribly sorry!!! I'm only a kid! Help me out. I just want to go home. I did this not knowing of the serious penalty that lies behind it. Please! Please! Please!"

    What a spoiled little punk. He didn't know stealing was against the law? He was old enough to come up with this scam and steal, and now suddenly he's just an innocent kid?

    I say they give him the chair.

    No, but seriously, the attitude of this kid sickens me. Do the crime, get ready to do the time. At 19, you're a little old to be whining like an adolescent.
  • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @09:59PM (#14181564) Homepage Journal
    It might not be quite as fancy, but there's a free and OSS PHP-based barcode maker called Barcode (which does work, and pretty well). I've used it in the past to steal^Wcreate barcodes for inventory at work.

    Here's an implementation [barcodesinc.com] and here's the homepage [mribti.com] for the program.

    An interesting aside is that if you have an LCD monitor, you can actually scan the barcode off the screen (at least with an older Symbol RS232 scanner I had).
  • by Sigmund Dali (925077) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:00PM (#14181578)
    I worked at Fry's, and was actually lucky enough to catch somebody doing this trick. I say lucky because, besides for other draconian security measures in place at Fry's is a $50 bonus for catching someone shoplifting ($300 if it was an employee). Anyway, these scams are particularly clever because it requires very little in the form of "suspicious behavior" from the customer. All they have to do is put the package in the cart with the barcode up and casually place the sticker on it. Furthermore, since you can pretty much generate whatever you want on that, it can be difficult for the cashier to notice it, because the product could ring up as an item very similiar. For instance, the trick goes to purchase an iPod case for $10 and then take home the barcode and fiddle with it until you make a sticker with the same info on it. It rings up to the cashier as "iPod" something, and it takes a rather observant cashier to notice this. Very clever, indeed.

    The only reason I caught him was because I noticed he kept peeling something off of the box, which was suspicious. Apparently, he had f'ed up the first sticker's application, and it was crooked, a dead giveaway.
  • by garylian (870843) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:05PM (#14181605)
    Barcodes are fairly easy to create using just a PC and a decent quality laser printer.

    If they took it to the extreme that you needed to have a certain font card (a nice DIMM or SIMM) to produce any barcode, it would slow folks down a whole lot. When you have to spend a hundred or two to get the font card, the price for entry will slow down the casual twit.

    15 day free trial on that program. That part just cracks me up.
  • Not at Target! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fjornir (516960) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:22PM (#14181708)
    Personally, I would have gone for a less blatant discount, or refrained from visiting the same store so soon afterwards.

    Personally I wouldn't try this at Target at all, mostly because I've seen how the Loss Prevention staff at Target work. My father worked for Target in Loss Prevention and as a company they take it very seriously. I got a chance to go into the security booth and see how it works at Target and... Wow. I went in and looked at all the monitors and said "That's a lot of cameras..." and the guy who was in there laughed and said, "no... This is a lot of cameras" -- and put the entire left-bank of monitors (the control room is rigged for two operators) on sequential scan.

    Excepting the interiors of the dressing rooms and restrooms the whole store is pretty much perfectly covered. This was back in '94 when I was in there and my dad was showing me just how cool their shiz was. They had a system which would track a person through the store, switching the monitor from camera to camera to keep them covered. It wasn't perfect, you needed to get them so they were the only moving object in the frame and if they encountered a other people it would pop up the camera numbers for the areas they could go to from there around the borders of the screen. It was confusing to watch because as it shifted from camera to camera 'left' would become 'right' or 'up' but...

    The cashiers are watched like -- every cashier has a camera on them, and every scan they make pops up the item number and price. When a card is swiped the card number pops up too. If the same card is used within a given period of time it automatically pops up onto the "suspicious activity" monitor.

    The detail view on cashiers was really quite interesting - a series of bar graphs showed how high above/below the averages they were for credit vs cash , store credit vs external credit, dollar amount of sale, and several other indicators. My dad was telling me that because real shoplifting was relatively low cost compared to a clerk participating in a scam they put a lot more effort into finding the crooked clerks.

  • by sjames (1099) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:30PM (#14181758) Homepage

    I don't condone fraud by any means, but it's hardly surprising scams like this work (sorta). When you pay people peanuts and demand that they shut their brains off and be good little living robots, they're not likely to notice or care what comes up when they scan an item. In fact, a fair portion of them probably give a silent little cheer if they see the store get ripped off.

  • Pop-Bottle Returns (Score:5, Informative)

    by detritus. (46421) * on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:32PM (#14181770)
    I'm surprised nobody has attempted to rip off the automatic pop-bottle deposit machines (obviously you would have to live in a state that has pop bottle desposits/refunds to understand). The machines generate a reciept with the dollar/cent amount embedded right into the barcode. It would only take getting a thermal reciept printer, and printing up some reciepts random dollar amounts, and redeeming them for instant cash.
  • Back in my day... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spock the Baptist (455355) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @10:45PM (#14181842) Journal
    Back in the late 70s, or early 80s the Skaggs-Albertson's in Waco carried fishing gear. Being a bass fishing type of guy, I frequented the 'Fishing Department" often. One afternoon I discovered that the store had got several Fenwick rods in. A couple of the spinning rods were models that I had been fantasying about for a year or so.

    I was shocked when I saw the prices. They were about 1/4 of SRP. You did not get Fenwick rods back then for less than SRP. There were also 4 Plano tackle boxes that I had been admiring in the BassPro catalogue for a couple of years. They too were 1/4 of SRP. A couple of my buddies were with me, and the three of us scrapped to gather enough case on the spot to purchase these items.

    I never have found out what the deal was, whether these items were mismarked, or if there was some skullduggery afoot. In any case I've still got both rods though I don't use them so much anymore. I gave the tackle boxes to one of my nephews, and he's still using them.

    Frank, one of the above mention friends has always believed that we blinded-sided some tag switcher. His dad was a lawyer and there were some group of people about that time where one person would go into stores and switch tags one day and another would come back a couple of days later and purchase the items. Almost all of the suspected switches were to items that the average store employe would not know about, so the prices that the items were switched to did not draw suspicion. No one was ever arrested, and I don't believe that there was really anyone that was strongly suspected. The only clue that this might have been going on was the some of the store managers were finding items that were 'mismarked' with unusually high frequency. The suspicion was that if the second person got even a little nervous that things were not going well they'd never make the purchase.

    I'm, personally, not so sure that this was the case. About 7 months after I purchased the rods and tackle boxes, fishing gear other than hooks, weights, line, and lures disappeared from the store. I'm thinking that the rods and tackle boxes were discounted to get them out of the store. Who knows???
  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @11:16PM (#14182027) Homepage
    ...for $1.99 this way?

    Jesus, an iPod for $4.99! Somebody's an idiot - and I'd say both the kid and whoever actually rang up a sale for this price qualify.
  • Bartering? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2005 @12:25AM (#14182418)
    Seems to me that printing your own barcodes for goods is just a form of bartering. If the store is willing to accept your revised price offer, the sale is done.

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