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ST. LOUIS – Two Schnucks employees received Western Union's Eagle Eye award this week for exposing wire scams attempted at their stores.
Colleen Alley, a customer service cashier at the Overland Schnucks, exposed a stock-buying scam that threatened to bilk an elderly customer out of thousands of dollars. Pat Shoemaker, assistant service center manager at the Brentwood Schnucks, exposed 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 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," he said. "As a company Schnucks does an excellent job internally of training associates to protect customers by identifying potential fraud cases."
Alley said her customer was 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," she 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 continued: "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."
The situation was similar at the Brentwood Schnucks. 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," said Shoemaker. "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.