UPC Code Fraud Could Cost You More

Wednesday, October 24th 2007, 4:57 pm
By: News On 6

The FBI wants you to know about a scam that's causing big problems in Oklahoma. It's called UPC code fraud. News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports agents say the problem always gets worse as the holidays approach. The thieves steal high-ticket merchandise and if you're not careful, it could end up in your hands.

Almost every store now has a UPC code on items that allows cashiers to scan the item, know what it is and how much it costs. It's a great convenience for shoppers, and an easy way for stores to keep track of inventory. But, as with every new high-tech invention, criminals eventually figure out a way to use those codes their advantage.

They are switching codes from cheaper items onto similar, but more expensive ones.

"What they'll do is get a product that comes with one of these household appliances or a tool and put a UPC code on there, so they might get an item worth several hundred dollars for $20,” said Tulsa FBI agent Joe Fierro.

Busy store clerks often don't realize what's happened, and the thieves usually pay with cash, so they don't leave behind a paper trail.

Some criminals take it a step further and take their receipt outside and hand it off to a buddy who goes back in and gets the same item and walks out, without paying. If they're approached, they just flash the receipt.

Not only do they pay less, they can get away with two or three at a time. They often remove a few parts and return the items for cash or store gift cards. With the spare parts, they put together one complete item and sell it online at websites like E-bay or Craigslist.

"In a lot of cases, they'll show a close-up of an I.D. number that you can check with the company. You can check that and if the price is absurdly low for a new item, that's a big clue,” said the FBI’s Joe Fierro.

This type of theft is costing businesses big bucks, and those losses eventually get passed along to honest customers. You can help stop the practice by only buying items from reputable places. And, if you know someone who is committing UPC fraud, turn them in.

Watch the video: FBI Warns Of UPC Scam