Fast-talking thieves tricking cashiers in ‘bait and switch’ scams

A new convenience store scam taking over Florida (WFLA Photo)
A new convenience store scam taking over Florida (WFLA Photo)

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s not a new scam, but it seems to be making the rounds in Pinellas County once again. For local store clerks who’ve never seen it firsthand, they’re left wondering how they didn’t catch this so-called “bait and switch” technique.

Security camera footage shows the flimflam scheme goes down in just a matter of moments. It’s seen in surveillance video from the Stein Mart on Fourth Street in St. Petersburg.

There is no weapon, not even a verbal threat of violence.

There’s simply a single criminal wearing a button-down shirt with a baseball cap.

“The scam begins when he brings about $800 worth of random merchandise to the counter. When it was time to pay, he pulled out a wad of cash,” explained Sandra Bentil with the St. Petersburg Police Department.

St. Petersburg detectives inspected this video very closely.

Bentil describes how the suspect distracted the clerk as “by suggesting he count the money into piles and at one point, he even started to help him count the money.”

It wasn’t until hours later the cashier realized he was $400 short in his register. “At the end of the day, the suspect walked out of the store with all of the merchandise and $400 in cash,” said Bentil

This same cash confusing scenario is also showing up in Largo at Hartson’s Food Store. “He’s a fast talker, he’s good at what he does. It’s obvious he’s done it before,” said the store’s owner, Mary Anson.

She gladly showed us her security video capturing this latest attempted scam during the man’s third quick-change-trip to her store on East Bay Drive.

“He hands the clerk a fifty and steps aside to pull other money out of his pocket, and then when she hands him the change for the fifty, she says he’s like ‘whoa, wait. What did I give you?” Anson said.

That’s when his cat and mouse game of confusion with the clerk began to really unravel.

The convenience store scheme ended when the cashier realized she’d seen the man before. Not just once, but twice.

Without hesitation, this brave woman called the man’s bluff when he asks to get back his $50 bill.

“You’ve already pulled this scam on me once and you’re not doing it again,” she responds. “You’re lucky you didn’t go to jail last time.”

As you can see in these videos, this in a crime of confusion, conversation, and most importantly, cash.

It can happen in a split second. These criminals are smooth, fast-talking thieves.

Their flimflam scheme won’t likely fly much longer in Pinellas, so surrounding counties should be aware.

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