Salami slicing refers to a series of many small actions, often performed by clandestine means, that as an accumulated whole produces a much larger action or result that would be difficult or unlawful to perform all at once. The term is typically used pejoratively. Although salami slicing is often used to carry out illegal activities, it is only a strategy for gaining an advantage over time by accumulating it in small increments, so it can be used in legal ways as well.
An example of salami slicing, also known as penny shaving, is the fraudulent practice of stealing money repeatedly in extremely small quantities, usually by taking advantage of rounding to the nearest cent (or other monetary unit) in financial transactions. It would be done by always rounding down, and putting the fractions of a cent into another account. The idea is to make the change small enough that any single transaction will go undetected.
In information security, a salami attack is a series of minor attacks that together results in a larger attack. Computers are ideally suited to automating this type of attack.
In January 1993, four executives of a rental-car franchise in Florida were charged with defrauding at least 47,000 customers using a salami technique.
In Los Angeles, in October 1998, district attorneys charged four men with fraud for allegedly installing computer chips in gasoline pumps that cheated consumers by overstating the amounts pumped.
In 2008, a man was arrested for fraudulently creating 58,000 accounts which he used to collect money through verification deposits from online brokerage firms a few cents at a time.
In 1996, an Edmonton fare box serviceman was found guilty of stealing from the city's transit agency by stealing coins from the fare box. Over 13 years, he walked away with 37 tonnes of coins with a face value of nearly CDN$2.4 million, having used a magnet to lift the coins one at a time out of the fare boxes. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison and was eligible for parole after 18 months.
In Buffalo, New York, another fare box serviceman stole more than US$200,000 in quarters from the local transit agency over an eight year period (2003 through 2011). Blaming a gambling addiction for his crime, he was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.
We have seen the physical reality of that in the energy markets, with the Russian Government deliberately salami-slicing those markets in order to salami-slice alliances.
In a 1972 episode of the TV series M*A*S*H, Radar attempts to ship an entire Jeep home from Korea one piece at a time. Hawkeye commented that his mailman "would have a retroactive hernia" if he found out. The 1987 TV movie Perry Mason: The Case of the Murdered Madam features a murder trial involving the transfer of fractional cents by bank employees.
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- Henton, Darcy (27 Dec 2010). "LRT thief stole nearly $2.4 million, one coin at a time". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
- "Convicted parking meter thief amassed $210,000 in stolen cash — all of it in quarters". National Post. Postmedia Network Inc. Associated Press. August 17, 2013. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
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