Goldhawk Fights Back: The Many Faces of Larceny

This is a weekly column by Dale Goldhawk, Canada’s best-known consumer advocate. A journalist, author and broadcaster, Dale hosts Goldhawk Fights Back For You, on AM 740 or at AM740 ZoomerRadio, Monday through Friday from 11 am to 1 pm, in the eastern time zone. Visit his website at

It’s always amazing to me how hard bad guys will work to get something for nothing. It’s true satisfaction for a thief.

I laugh when I think how successful some of these thieves could have been it they had just decided to be honest.

The A-team bad guys go for the big con where there is a lot of preparation, piles of smooth talk, double talk and outright lies.

Then there are the small operators. They just sting you for a few dollars but they make it up in volume.

Two small operators tried to hit me in the same day, just a few days ago.

First, at the supermarket: My sharp-eyed wife (I may be Goldhawk; she’s Hawkeye) spotted the fancy key work by the cashier. Most of the items are swiped but one of the produce items has to be keyed in — about five dollars. The cashier keyed it in once. Then she keyed it in again and then quickly went on to other keyed-in items. Hawkeye said “hang on, you charged me twice.”

Without missing a beat, she quickly deleted the extra charge. She knew exactly where it wasand mumbled a “sorry” before carrying on. Was that just a mistake or was it too smooth to be a mistake? You decide.

Then later the same day, I was converting Euros back to Canadian dollars. I had counted the cash beforehand. Twice. I put the money through the slot and said “165 in Euros for Canadian dollars, please.”

Instead of counting out the bills, she sort of fanned the bills, ripping one of the five’s in half in the process.

“160, right?” She said.

“Nope. 165,” I said.

She fumbled with the bills and said “right.”

When she gave me the Canadian bills, she went through the same strange fanning motion as she pulled the cash out of a drawer and handed me the bills in a clump.

I counted them out, one by one. Was the clerk just being incompetent or was she trolling for some of my money? Once again, you decide.

I remember the man who called me to complain the pharmacist was shorting him a pill or two on every prescription. He would complain and the pharmacist would top up the pills. He probably mouthed a “sorry” in the process.

With my help, the man took his complaint to the pharmacy head office. The result: that pharmacist disappeared. But the man still counts his pills. Magically, the numbers now match the number on the label.

The big cons usually break down into two types — the high-tech and the traditional.

How’s this for traditional? Three Olympic athletes, in training in Calgary for the Vancouver games,
somehow found the time to get all tangled up with a con artist.

Police caught the con artist but not before he relieved the athletes and a few others, of almost half a million dollars.

The con? The man was selling lakeshore properties in Canmore, Alberta. The problem? The properties belonged to somebody else.

Finally, the fight against high-tech fraud is not going all that well, at least in the UK.

British journalist Sean Poulter is reporting that credit card fraud
has increased by 50 per cent since the full implementation ofCHIPand PIN credit cards four years ago.

These are the same CHIP and PIN cards now being introduced in Canada as the Next Big Thing to fight fraud.

Another worrisome development in Britain — big banks are taking a tough line with victims and refusing, in growing numbers, to pay for fraud losses. In many cases, the banks are claiming improper use or careless use of Personal Identification Numbers.

And even worse, the government in Britain has decided that credit card fraud is no longer a police matter but must be investigated by the banks. British critics are up in arms, calling this the privatization of the justice system.

There is a lot of chatter on line about whether or not the CHIP and PIN technology has been defeated by the bad guys. One thing is for sure. That technology does not deal with the problem of credit cards being used to make purchases online, by telephone and through mail order.

CHIP and PIN technology is still being touted as an effective fraud-fighting tool in Canada. Maybe it’s a bit too early to have a celebratory parade.

Photo © YinYang

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Dale GoldhawkGemini award nominee, journalist and broadcaster, Dale Goldhawk has earned Canada’s trust by his four decades of work exposing fraud and greed in the marketplace. To read more of his articles, go to (now part of the ZoomerMedia family of websites).

Don’t miss Goldhawk Fights Back , on the New AM740 Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.