It may be the season of merriment and goodwill, but there is one class of customer who couldn't give a Santa's reindeer about it all ­ the fraudster. And if you don't want to help the crook towards a much better Christmas than he or she deserves, there are a few simple precautions you can take that will make you less vulnerable to the cheat's miserable antics. Remind your staff about the old con where the customer hands over one of the bigger notes and a little later finds the right money'. They'll ask for their £20 note back even though they only handed over a tenner. I wish I had a dollar for every time staff have been caught on this one. Independent retailers are also the most likely to suffer from cheque card fraud. There are so many plastic cards in circulation these days that it is very easy to become confused about what constitutes a guarantee. So make time for a quick refresher for your staff. The correct procedure for accepting any card is: Take the card from the customer, remove it from any plastic covering, run your thumb over the signature strip for signs of tampering and then hold the card while the customer signs. Match the signature and check the front of the card for the correct spelling. If the card has been swiped, match the embossed account number on the front of the card with the number printed on the receipt. Finally check the expiry date. For cheques backed by guarantee cards, the following five steps must also be followed: l Look for the hologram or printed logo of Shakespeare. The Bard must be on the card. l The value of the cheque must not exceed the limit of the guarantee card. l It must say cheque guarantee' on the card. l Make sure the sort code matches the one on the cheque (I've known banks bounce cheques because a customer has more than one account and used the wrong card with their cheque). l Write the cheque card number on the back ­ many don't do this on the basis that they know' the customer and feel it is somehow offensive. It isn't, so do it. l Tell staff to be particularly alert for cheques that are almost at the limit of the guarantee and to never accept limited company cheques. If you follow these procedures faithfully you won't get stuck with dud cheques. The banks are obliged to honour the system. If you need any more motivation to train or retrain your staff, just consider how much extra business you'll have to do to make up the profit wiped out by one bad cheque of £50. To order free packs on how to spot and stop fraud and how to claim rewards for captured cards, ring Card Watch on 08705 500 005. {{GROCER CLUB }}