New Identity Scam Preys On Shoppers And Unwitting Sales Clerks
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March 7, 2002
By Connie Thompson


SHORELINE - We've come across a new scheme identity thieves are using to steal your personal information.

It's very sneaky and it gets you while you're shopping.

For Penelope Chanel, it started with a new shirt and pair of jeans. She bought them Feb. 26 at the Sears store in Shoreline.

"I decided to pay by check," she said.

But before she could even write the check, she says the sales clerk got on the phone with someone claiming to be with store security.

She started giving Penelope's description.

"And started describing my hair color, size, blue eyes, medium weight," she said.

"And then I said, 'What is this about?' And she said, 'Oh that's OK, just a security check. Don't worry about it," she continued.

Then the clerk took Penelope's drivers' license, and shared that with the caller.

The so-called security person on the phone prompted the sales clerk to get more information from Penelope. Information that was not only unnecessary, but illegal to request.

Even though Penelope paid with a check, the clerk also wanted a credit card, and got back on the phone to share that. The clerk insisted it was for security.

But when Penelope checked with her credit card company, she found out that within minutes of her purchase, someone tried to charge almost $150 for phone services on the East Coast.

And the next day, someone tried to charge nearly $100 at the Downtown Seattle Bon Marche.

Fortunately Penelope had flagged her accounts and the charges were denied.

Sears told KOMO 4 News the clerk was also an unwitting victim.

In written statement, a spokeswoman told KOMO 4 News that Sears immediately began an investigation, and has taken steps to ensure it doesn't happen again, including reinforcing training of employees about customer confidentiality.

In the course of their investigation, Sears said they've learned other retailers across the country have been hit by the same scam.

So if you notice a clerk sharing your personal information, stop them and demand to see a supervisor because that's not customary.

And if you're a sales clerk and someone starts asking for your customer's information, put the caller on hold contact your manager immediately.


©2002 KOMO News 4 Website