The White Rock BIA has put out an advisory, the RCMP is telling business owners to stay cognizant and a small shop owner considers himself lucky after dodging what he is confident was a $3,500 scam.
Pav Manchanda, owner of The Handpicked Home, said three women entered his store, at 1406 Johnston Rd., on Aug. 2 and picked out $351 worth of items.
After the customer asked to pay by credit card, the cashier rang up the purchase and passed the debit machine to the customer, Manchanda told Peace Arch News last week.
Manchanda alleges that while two of the women distracted the two employees who were working at the time, the customer manipulated the debit machine.
“She was clicking around for a bit of time. What she managed to do was switch the amount to $3,510, and at the same time, do an override on the machine so it would not require a PIN,” Manchanda said.
“That’s possible if you have the supervisor code for the machine.”
Manchanda said every debit machine comes with the same, default supervisor code.
“The receipt came out, and all that was required was a signature,” Manchanda said. “While she was doing this, the other two were distracting staff by asking questions about the jewelry, getting staff attention away from their friend.
“She signed it, and at that time, our staff realized it was for $3,000.”
The woman requested a refund, but insisted it be put on her debit card, Manchanda said.
“They paid with a credit card – that was most likely stolen – then they wanted a refund on a debit card,” Manchanda alleged.
Manchanda, who wasn’t in the shop at the time but attended after receiving a call from his employees requesting his help because of the unusual situation.
While dealing with the customers requesting a refund, a call came in to the business from staff at Flowers and Company, which is located a few doors down Johnston Road.
The three women had allegedly attempted the same transaction there before moving to Handpicked Home, staff were told.
Manchanda said the owners of Flowers and Company told him to not do a refund, but instead void the transaction – a step Manchanda said he was ultimately able to do after calling the credit card company and explaining the situation.
The women left Handpicked Home emptyhanded after Manchanda put the customer on the phone with the credit card company, Manchanda said.
Manchanda said he’s thankful that his shop learned a lesson without paying for it, however, he was critical of White Rock RCMP response time.
“The flower shop had called the police to let them know that this was happening. I knew that the police were called so I was stalling as much as possible, ” Manchanda said.
“There was a half hour that went by and then the police showed up. I don’t know what they heck they were doing, to be honest. We didn’t get any type of response. They could have been caught. Now it’s all speculation. We don’t have proof that the credit card was stolen.”
White Rock RCMP Sgt. Rob Dixon did not comment on the response-time concern, but confirmed to PAN Tuesday that there is an ongoing investigation.
He said the incident is a reminder to city business owners to be on the alert.
“These types of frauds are fairly common, just be cognizant of it,” Dixon said.
The White Rock BIA issued a “fraud alert” to its members on Aug. 3.
“Call 911 if you see suspicious activity – we want the police to know so that you and other local businesses can be protected,” the emailed notice states.
In a post to Handpicked Home’s Facebook page, co-owner Piya Sandhu shared details of what transpired, and thanked Flowers and Company.
“To my unbelievably dedicated staff (and husband!) who handled the situation like champions – holy cow. I owe you my life. To the wonderful Flowers and Company next door who saved us – a bear hug awaits you. Thank you!” the post states.