TAMPA — A man ran up a $7,753.22 bill at an Apple store.
When his debit card was declined, he pretended to call his bank. He gave the store clerk a fake authorization code to punch into the card reader.
And that's how the man, 24-year-old Sharron Laverne Parrish Jr. of Tampa, scammed one of the biggest high-tech companies in the world — not once but 42 times — totaling $309,768, according to federal court records.
A Secret Service criminal complaint charges Parrish with wire fraud, alleging that he tricked Apple clerks in 16 states into accepting meaningless override codes. He is accused of hitting the Brandon store twice, along with stores in Orlando, Wellington and Boca Raton.
Parrish, who lists a home address in the River Grove area of east Tampa, was held without bail in the Pinellas County Jail.
The scam was made possible through a practice known as a "forced sale," "forced post" or "forced code."
A credit or debit card gets declined, a customer protests that funds should be available and a merchant calls the card issuer, looking for authorization to proceed.
If the issuer approves, the merchant gets an authorization code, creating a record of the override.
But that code isn't special.
"It does not actually matter what code the merchant types into the terminal," the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey stated publicly in February after a similar case there. "Any combination of digits will override the denial."