Preventing Tip Fraud & Credit Card Theft at Restaurants
These days it’s very common to whip out the ol’ credit card and pay for a meal at a restaurant.
It’s easy. It’s convenient. And depending on your credit card provider, you may earn cash back or other bonuses just for even using the card.
So what about when dishonest workers try to manipulate the credit card slip and reward themselves more of a tip than you intended?
That, my friends, is fraud, and it can easily be used to steal money from you if you’re not paying attention.
Last month I experienced this fraud / thievery when I took my girlfriend and one of our friends to a local Applebees restaurant.
While the service was slow and tolerable, the food itself was pretty good. I enjoyed my burger, and my companions each enjoyed their meals. The only downside was the slightly poor service despite the restaurant being mostly empty. It wasn’t like the waitress was overloaded with busy tables or fussy customers.
I paid for the meal with my credit card, but used cash for the tip. I struck through the tip line on the statement and copied the meal’s total down to the final line. I signed for only the amount of the meal on the statement. Some cash was placed with the receipt, and the waitress promptly collected it before we left the table.
Fast forward three weeks.
I was paying my credit card bill when, surprise, surprise, the statement listed for the meal at Applebees was a bit higher than I authorised. I clicked on the details, and sure enough, some asshole, whether it was the waitress, a manager, or somebody else with access to the system, ADDED MY CASH TIP TO THE CREDIT CARD STATEMENT! Some THIEF at APPLEBEES pocketed the cash tip and still charged the amount to my credit card!
Unfortunately, I don’t have my copy of the receipt. I normally hold onto those slips of paper until after I pay my credit card bill, but for some reason I lost this particular receipt. It’s hard to call and let the restaurant management have it when I don’t have any evidence on my side. I do know for a FACT that I crossed out the tip line and left a cash tip.
We’re not talking about a huge amount of money here. The bill itself was moderate for the three of us, and I basically left behind a 15% tip; nothing skimpy, and certainly nothing generous considering the mediocre service that we received. It’s not worth my time driving to the location and demanding to see the restaurant’s copy of the receipt. Taking the time to write an article about it is more productive.
The bottom line here is that the restaurant lost my trust and future business because of the thief. IF I have a desire for eating at Applebees, rest assured that it will be at a different location.
So when it comes to paying for restaurant meals with a credit card, how can you better protect yourself from tip thievery and credit card fraud?
Apart from using a nerdy checksum number game with the receipt, or writing something like “LEFT A CASH TIP” on the tip line, are there any really good ways at protecting your credit card from being intentionally overcharged?
I struck through the tip line, but apparently that got overridden by some thief in the restaurant. I’ve successfully used this “striking through the tip line and leaving a cash tip” strategy many times in the past.
I’ve read that some people use large block numbers when writing the final total, making it harder for things like a “3″ becoming an “8″. This doesn’t always work as the final numbers on my credit card statement look nothing like what I signed for in the restaurant.
And of course, other people simply believe that leaving a generous tip is the way to stop people from screwing with the receipt and committing credit card fraud. That theory is the topic of another article entirely.
The problem is that anybody is liable to be the target of credit card fraud at any time. When paying with a credit card, the best practice is to always keep your receipts and verify every detail on the credit card statement.
Yes, paying with cash is always safer in the end than paying with a credit card. Just make sure to count your change before the waiter/waitress sneaks away from the table.