Lori Willis, Schnucks
(314) 994-4602/Cell (314) 374-9876
David Hymer, Western Union
Nov. 17, 2004
Schnucks Associates Prevent Wire Fraud
ST. LOUIS - Colleen Alley, customer service cashier at the Overland Schnucks, recently exposed a stock buying scam that threatened to bilk an elderly customer out of thousands of dollars. Today, Alley will receive Western Union's Eagle Eye award for her compassion and quick thinking. Yesterday, Pat Shoemaker, assistant service center manager at the Brentwood Schnucks, received the same honor for her work in exposing a Canadian Lottery scam.
In both cases, the two associates recognized warning signs of fraud, and prevented their customers from sending nearly $3,000 to two different fraudulent accounts. According to David Hymer, key account manager for Western Union, the associates' quick thinking saved their customers thousands of dollars. "A lot of their training comes through our Connections magazine, a publication sent to all agent locations and used as a tool to detect fraud. Schnucks, as a company, also does an excellent job internally of training associates to protect customers by identify potential fraud cases," he said.
Hymer says there is no particular season for this type of operation; telephone fraud can happen anytime and anywhere. "People are called at random. It's probably a numbers game, and if you call enough people you will eventually find someone who will fall victim to it," he said. Hymer said victims typically are elderly persons who are coached by the phone contact on what to say when wiring money, which makes the scam more difficult to uncover.
Alley said her customer was very determined to send the money. "She wanted to send about $2,700, but she had never filled out a transfer form before which made me suspicious," Alley said. "I started asking her questions, and at first she told me she was buying stock. The more questions I asked, the more red flags were raised. She was sending money to an individual representing a company in Canada."
Alley said, "The information we receive from our Loss Prevention department and from Western Union helps us know what to look for in these cases. This time, despite all my questions, the customer was intent on sending the money so I stalled her until I could get Western Union on the phone to expose the fraud. When Western Union told her it was a scam, she was in shock. I apologized for detaining her but explained that if she were my grandma, I would want someone to help. She gave me a hug and thanked me."
The situation was similar at the Brentwood Schnucks. Pat Shoemaker's customer, an elderly man in his mid-to-late 70's, was not the typical Western Union customer. "He was clearly nervous, and at first, he was reluctant to provide the details of his transaction. I just didn't have a good feeling. We called Western Union's fraud hotline, and I was given additional questions to ask." Shoemaker said eventually the man thanked her, took his $3,000 and left the store.
Hymer said it's a good idea for people to talk to family members who might be susceptible to this type of phone fraud. "The first sign should be if they are being asked to send money to someone on the pretense they will get something in return. It's like the old saying, `If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.'"
Founded in St. Louis in 1939, Schnuck Markets, Inc. currently operates 102 stores (including five Logli stores) and 95 pharmacies in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Mississippi. The family-owned company ranks 80th in the Forbes magazine listing of the nation's "Largest Private Companies."
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