Credit Cards

How to Prevent Your Waiter from Altering Your Credit Card Bill

Comments 10 Comments

Free From Broke wrote about his recent experience with small-scale credit card fraud. He had eaten at a restaurant and left a cash tip. When he got his credit card statement, he compared the charges to his receipts (yep, he saved them) and noticed that the restaurant had overcharged him. Apparently, the waiter had added an additional tip in the tip line of the bill. He called American Express and they promptly reversed the overcharge.

The same thing happened to me a couple of years ago. I, too, kept the receipt, which made it much easier to resolve the problem.

Lately, however, I've not been as careful about saving my receipts. As a result, I don't really know whether or not I've been a victim of a criminal waiter or not. I suppose I could start saving my paper receipts again, but Free From Broke has a better idea — take a photo of all your credit card receipts with your cell phone as soon as you get them. That way, you'll have a dated record of all your credit card purchases that you can refer to when you go over your credit card statements. If you have a free account with Evernote (a fantastic online service that lets you save, organize, and
search virtually any kind of digital information you throw at it), you can take photos with your phone and save them there.

If taking photos is too much of a hassle, you can use a geeky "checksum" method, which involves adding or subtracting a few cents to your tip in such a way that the total charge can be "summed" and "checked" to determine whether or not you were overcharged. Punny Money has a clearly-written tutorial on how to use the checksum system. If you have an iPhone, you can even purchase an application called Sudobility that does the math for you.

Mark Frauenfelder – Editor-in-chief of MAKE magazine and the founder of the popular Boing Boing weblog, Mark was an editor at Wired from 1993-1998 and is the founding editor of Wired Online.

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  • FFB

    Once I get my new printer/scanner up and running I might turn to scanning my receipts to PDF and keeping them in a computer folder. It’s a little work but makes finding a receipt later on much easier (and if I need anything for taxes I have it).

  • Bryan

    I long ago figured out a great solution for preventing cc fraud; I pay with cash!

  • randomroyalty

    Not only do I save my receipts (religiously) but I reconcile monthly and ALWAYS staple the receipts to the statement.
    This comes in handy not only to prevent fraud and other mistakes, but for warranty and insurance claims.
    Don’t bother with scanning, but use a program like Quicken for tracking purchases. This makes it easy to find when you bought something and with what instrument.

  • mark chandler

    How about this: Leave 20% like you’re supposed to and this probably won’t happen. Not that I condone theft on the waiter’s part, mind you, and I have NEVER done this. As for that “checksum” method, when I receive a receipt like this at my job I take a penny less in the cardholder’s favor. This obsession with round numbers is silly.

    • Andy Douglass

      I got scammed even after leaving 20 percent. The waiter decided to take 70 and believe me he didn’t deserve 20 in the first place. So, this comment is no help.

  • markw

    Mark… “20 percent like you’re supposed to”?
    in what world are you living.. 15 percent is for typical service.. 20 percent is for good service (maybe a bit more if the waiter was excelent. And please dont tell me percentages go up for inflation, inflation is reflected in the price of the meal. I usually leave 15-20 percent but I am in no way “supposed” to.. tip, is standard for good service, if a waiter/waitress is rude, or does not perform their job, their tip will reflect.

  • mark c.

    Mark W: 20% is the standard in most major cities now. There are numerous, logical reasons why you should always top 20%, but I shan’t enumerate them here. I have worked in this business for 10 years and there is one thing I do know for sure – you can’t stop certain people from being cheap and petty.

  • crayoneater

    Markw – until servers in every state get to earn minimum wage like the rest of us, 20% is basic human decency.

  • Dave

    If you have a nice camera phone, the phone software ProOnGo Expense specializes in storing receipts by just taking pictures with your phone. You can find it here:
    Something for FFB (posted above) to do until you get your scanner up and running! Or ditch the scanner and just use your phone. ProOnGo exports to PDF (along with other formats) which was the format you mentioned using.

  • joe canoe

    where i am from, servers are guaranteed at least minimum wage, so tipping is truly optional. besides, why do i pay extra for someone already paid to do their job?

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