Work StressOver Ordering Scam in Restaurants aka. Relay Operator Scam
A restaurant is contacted via email or telephone, often multiple times. A large takeout or catering
order is then placed – frequently the number is 300 people – or reservations for around 20 people
are made on several dates. Some variations offered by the scammer include planning a party for
a sick or dying relative, or planning a special event such as a business anniversary celebration.
Pre-payment is made via stolen credit card, then the order or reservation is cancelled just prior to
the event. The scammer then demands a refund by company check or cash, claiming the credit
card originally used for payment has been cancelled. Often the card numbers used are acquired
electronically, so transactions can occur without the issuer or cardholder knowing the card is
Another version is when someone calls or faxes or e-mails and places a large order to be paid
with credit card, then wants you to over-charge them a large amount to cover the tip and wire
that amount to them in cash. You are out the cash and the order once the credit card charge is
reversed by the scammer. (more like this)
An additional variation is that the scammer uses a “TTY” operator to place the call. TTY is a
system using special equipment and an intermediary operator to place telephone calls for deaf
and speech-disabled people. This method ensures confidentiality for the caller and hides the
caller’s location, which is often overseas. Using TTY, the scammer may attempt to get a cell
phone for the restaurant and then communicate via text. The relay operator cannot turn away
the call even if they suspect it is fradulent. (more info here also)
When receiving orders like this, businesses can protect themselves by contacting the fraud
department for that particular credit card. The issuer can contact the cardholder and confirm the
order is bona fide, or freeze the card and prevent losses. If the scammer offers another card,
check that one too. Whenever making credit card refunds, do so using your credit card system
and don’t pay out cash. Recently cancelled cards can be refunded, and using the system provides
another layer of protection to the merchant.
Always and immediately report suspected credit card fraud to your card processor or the card