An Andersonville, Illinois clothing boutique was scammed out of $2,000 by a woman using a “forced sale” scam. The woman told an employee she was an aspiring model.
The wispy-thin woman in her early 20s walked into the Turley Road boutique, located at 5239 N. Clark St., on Thursday afternoon, July 6.
After bringing $2,000 worth of clothes to the cash register, the customer presented a driver’s license “before I asked,” said store employee Sarah Mergener.
“It’s rare for a girl of that age to have purchased so much without blinking an eye, but we really don’t make judgments here,” said Mergener. “We don’t really think that way unless we’re forced to.”
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The customer told Mergener she needed the outfits for a job interview.
“She told me she was a model and was trying to get pieces for an interview. She tried on a few things pretty quickly and brought a bunch of stuff” up to the counter, Mergener said, according to DNAinfo.com.
The customer told the employee she was traveling from out of town, and her bank provided her with a merchant code so her credit card would not be declined.
The customer typed a code into the credit card terminal, which employees believe caused the machine to go “offline”. Moments later the credit card was approved.
“Part of me was a little questioning,” said Mergener, “but if the card would’ve been declined” it would’ve raised red flags.”
According to DNAinfo.com, the employees didn’t realize the store had been defrauded until closing time. That’s when they noticed the sale had not gone through.
Turley Road posted the woman’s photo and an offer of a reward on Facebook.com.
The post’s opening sentence read: “Satan’s spawn paid Turley Road a visit yesterday and stole $2000.”
Another boutique owner saw the post and believes the same woman hit her shop with a “forced sale” scam in January.
“This was a professional. This is a grifter,” says Lisa Piemonte, who has run the Lazy Dog Antique Store for 13 years.
Piemonte said the woman scammed the antique store out of $3,500 worth of antique gold estate jewelry.
“She told me the transaction would be declined. She told me what would happen,” said Jennifer Bell, the antique store employee who rang up the purchases.
Bell said the customer gave her a set of instructions to override the decline and entered a pin code into the credit card terminal.
The employee didn’t realize the transaction was fraudulent until a week later — and by then surveillance camera footage had been automatically deleted.
The credit card company “was basically like, ‘Sorry, there is nothing we can do,'” Bell said. “They took the money back and basically said they never did this.”
A forced sale scam occurs when someone types a combination of numbers into a terminal that allows stores to override a declined credit card.
“It does not actually matter what code the merchant types into the terminal. Any combination of digits will override the denial. So long as the customer provides a fake authorization code and convinces the merchant to enter it into the terminal, the transaction will go through, said the NJ State Attorney’s Office in a press release after a similar scam was run in 2014.
Store owners hope the press coverage will help others before they are victimized by the same woman.