Check Fraud

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carolinaman
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Check Fraud

Post by carolinaman »

Recently I received a call from our mega bank asking what the intended amount was for a check my wife had written and mailed to a friend. My wife wrote the check for $75 but someone had altered the numbers to $850 which did not match the written amount on the check. The money had already been withdrawn from our account. The bank said that I needed to report this to their fraud division in order to recover the money. I asked the bank why the amount was withdrawn from our account since the written amount and the numerical amounts disagreed and were obviously altered. I got no answer. I reported to the fraud division and was told it would take 5 business days to restore funds to my account.

I was furious with how the bank was handling this. As a longtime customer (50 years) with multiple accounts I felt they should never have taken the money from my account and once I confirmed this they should have reinstated my funds. I went to the local branch and talked with the manager. She was cordial but could do nothing to override the process. She did say, based upon the alteration that it was most likely deposited at an ATM. The endorsement and stamp on back of check were not legible but it was most likely deposited at our mega bank ATM. This would give the depositer quick access to the funds.

My wife had mailed the letter at our local post office branch after the last pickup of the day. She also mailed a personal letter to a friend whom she corresponds with regularly. She confirmed with intended recipients that neither letter was received. That sounds like the post office has an internal problem. It took me multiple calls with the post office to determine who to report this to and I finally was directed to an online form to fill out, which I did. I have very little confidence that the post office will do anything about it but that was all I could do.

Five business days later the bank had not reinstated my funds so I called and pitched a temper tantrum which resulted in the funds being “tentatively” reinstated to our account. I asked if anyone would be prosecuted for this fraud and could I get the identity of the person who cashed our check. I was told the person’s identity is confidential and that I should report the fraud to the police. I talked with our local police and they said they cannot do anything unless they know which branch or ATM the funds were deposited at. The police are very frustrated by these types of situations because the banks have the information but the banks typically do not prosecute and will not provide information to them. The police would pursue with a court order but need to know what jurisdiction the crime was committed in first. The police say I have done everything I can do without getting information of where the crime was committed.

Has anyone else experienced this type of fraud and do you have any suggestions of what else I can do about it. Thanks
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MilleniumBuc
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by MilleniumBuc »

Sorry about your situation. I have not experienced check fraud, but have experienced mail fraud. The postal inspector's office does take mail fraud very seriously. I don't think it took more than 5 days to hear from them, so I would follow up with them.
jebmke
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by jebmke »

Another reason why it is insane that we still use checks in this country. I processed hundreds of thousands of payments per year in Europe while I was there and the only payment transaction fraud we experienced involved countries that still use checks.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
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midareff
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by midareff »

Sorry to hear/read of your difficulties. Another reason to do business by credit card.
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dm200
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by dm200 »

While the "letter" of the law and regulation is still that the written amount overrides the numbers, banks and credit union have become so automated that this is often overlooked. The same for verifying signatures. You were actually fortunate that the bank caught this at all. While I can understand taking a very short time to give back the credit, it seems that in the case you describe, five days seems excessive for at least "provisional credit".

It appears that, in this case, there were two somewhat separate frauds committed: one was alteration of the amount and the other was identity theft of the intended recipient.

One of the reasons that banks and credit unions are cautious and need to research such cases is that often the intended recipient actually received funds -- BUT claims to have not received the check.

From the narrative that it was likely deposited at an ATM, and the funds subsequently withdrawn - doesn't that mean that the depositor was a bank customer? Or was the ATM account access (your wife's or the intended recipient's) compromised as well? I am wondering if there is more to the story.
Sandwich
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by Sandwich »

carolinaman wrote: .....Has anyone else experienced this type of fraud and do you have any suggestions of what else I can do about it. Thanks ....
Hello,

Sorry to read about your loss.

This happened to our family last year. I believe a check was taken out of a locked USPS receptacle at a local mall and then altered to change the recipient's name and check amount. The check was drawn on an elderly relative's account to pay a large bill.

According to an alert bank official, the thief attempted to cash the altered check at a nearby branch. My family has had a business relationship with this bank branch for decades and the forger, suspicious ID card presented, and how the check was forged raised suspicions. A bank official said when the thief attempted to cash the check, they made a copy and told him they would need to verify the check's authenticity. The thief left the bank empty handed. The bank official called me and the check was not cashed.

I was advised, to avoid identity theft, to close the account and - reopen it with a new account number with the bank. I was able to accomplish this on the elderly relatives behalf. All direct payments for recurring bills needed to be directed to the new account. The Social Security Admin also had to be alerted so the direct deposit would then be sent to the new bank account. Additionally, I contacted the original recipient of the large bill to immediately set up a direct payment plan.

As the thief has your account number, you may consider steps to avoid the possibility that the thief is able to create bogus checks and continue to forge checks.

I also filed a police report, contacted the USPS to file a report explaining what I believe happened and requested a fraud alert on my relatives behalf.

Other changes included replacing our home mail box with a locked one, only mailing envelopes with checks at the USPS branch (either thru the drive receptacle right before a scheduled pickup or via their building's inside locked slot), reducing the number of checks written when possible, replacing gift checks to family and friends with gift cards from national retailers.

Hope you are able to get this matter resolved in an expedited manner.
Intens
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by Intens »

Sandwich wrote:
carolinaman wrote: .....Has anyone else experienced this type of fraud and do you have any suggestions of what else I can do about it. Thanks ....
This happened to our family last year. I believe a check was taken out of a locked USPS receptacle at a local mall and then altered to change the recipient's name and check amount.
That would indicate it was a postal employee.

Didn't the bank have video of the person who tried to deposit the altered check?
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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by Epsilon Delta »

jebmke wrote:Another reason why it is insane that we still use checks in this country. I processed hundreds of thousands of payments per year in Europe while I was there and the only payment transaction fraud we experienced involved countries that still use checks.
Anybody who believes there is no payment fraud in Europe does not read any European periodicals. Google something like "payment fraud site:www.theguardian.com". There's plenty of fraud in electronic payment systems. The quality and quantity change depending on the system, but the existance does not. Unless the people running the system commit what is arguably the biggest fraud of all and get the legal system to accept that their system is perfect so there is no fraud by fiat.
tidelandp
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by tidelandp »

carolinaman wrote:Five business days later the bank had not reinstated my funds so I called and pitched a temper tantrum which resulted in the funds being “tentatively” reinstated to our account.
I suggest redirecting your tantrum to social media, starting with Facebook and Twitter, maybe toss in a Yelp review about your branch and its lack of support. It’s pretty typical now for large companies to have staff dedicated to monitoring complaints about them on social media. They recognize its power to amplify customers' voices, and build (or destroy) corporate reputations.
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Tycoon
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by Tycoon »

I once had a paycheck taken from where I work and cashed by a coworker. The coworker endorsed the check made out to me with his name and the teller cashed it. My employer got a copy of the check showing his name on the back. I got my money back, but not from the bank. :twisted:
Emotionless, prognostication free investing. Ignoring the noise and economists since 1979. Getting rich off of "smart people's" behavioral mistakes.
likegarden
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by likegarden »

We still pay some bills via check. We place letters containing checks inside a post office into their 'Letters' slot, so it can not be our fault when a check does not arrive.
mouses
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by mouses »

Awhile back I wrote a check for $700-something and when it was deposited via an ATM it was only credited as $100-something to the person's account. In looking at the scanned image of the check later, I saw there was a crease or something across the check and it went through the top of the 7, making it look sort of like a 1.

The person went into the branch, which fortunately was open, and the teller took a report. I think (I don't recall exactly) they immediately credited his account with the $600. It took the bank about a month to debit the $600 from my account.

So, automation strikes again. And wheels grind slowly.

I am surprised, sort of, that banks do not pursue crimes, but I have come to the conclusion that crooks committing minor crimes basically get get out of jail free cards. I suppose it is not worth the time of the police etc. to track them down.
Katietsu
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by Katietsu »

A reimbursement check from my employer was mailed and addressed to me and was stolen before reaching me. The check was deposited into a bank account at an ATM. I had to fill out an affidavit that it was not my signature on the check in order to get a new one issued. However, nobody at the business, the bank, or the police was willing to pursue any investigation. I was shocked since the check was deposited to a bank account with an ATM card. How hard would that have been to follow up on? Did not think of notifying the postal service back then, but that might have had a higher likelihood of action.
Topic Author
carolinaman
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by carolinaman »

Sandwich wrote:
carolinaman wrote: .....Has anyone else experienced this type of fraud and do you have any suggestions of what else I can do about it. Thanks ....
This happened to our family last year. I believe a check was taken out of a locked USPS receptacle at a local mall and then altered to change the recipient's name and check amount. The check was drawn on an elderly relative's account to pay a large bill.

According to an alert bank official, the thief attempted to cash the altered check at a nearby branch. My family has had a business relationship with this bank branch for decades and the forger, suspicious ID card presented, and how the check was forged raised suspicions. A bank official said when the thief attempted to cash the check, they made a copy and told him they would need to verify the check's authenticity. The thief left the bank empty handed. The bank official called me and the check was not cashed.

I was advised, to avoid identity theft, to close the account and - reopen it with a new account number with the bank. I was able to accomplish this on the elderly relatives behalf. All direct payments for recurring bills needed to be directed to the new account. The Social Security Admin also had to be alerted so the direct deposit would then be sent to the new bank account. Additionally, I contacted the original recipient of the large bill to immediately set up a direct payment plan.

As the thief has your account number, you may consider steps to avoid the possibility that the thief is able to create bogus checks and continue to forge checks.
Thanks Sandwich. I hear what you are saying about possible fraudulent checks against our account. It has been 31 days since the check was stolen and we only have the one altered check. If they were going to forge more checks, I would think they would have already done so. I will talk to the bank about possibly setting up another checking account but doing that will be a big pain because we have so many linkages from that account. We pay a lot of bills automatically and receive SS and pensions into the account. Twenty years ago, setting up another checking account would have been no big deal. Nowadays it is much more complicated.
Topic Author
carolinaman
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by carolinaman »

dm200 wrote:
From the narrative that it was likely deposited at an ATM, and the funds subsequently withdrawn - doesn't that mean that the depositor was a bank customer? Or was the ATM account access (your wife's or the intended recipient's) compromised as well? I am wondering if there is more to the story.
Thanks dm200. It had to be a legitimate account that the funds were deposited into. But that does not necessarily mean the fraud was perpetrated by the account holder. The thief could have somehow gained access to the account and used it as a conduit to deposit and withdraw funds. According to the police, there are some pretty smart crooks doing this sort of thing. Even though the bank may have video of them depositing the money, it may be impossible to identify them.

Also according to the police, the banks are prone to not prosecute these types of crime and just write them off. Not much disincentive to the crooks.
jdb
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by jdb »

Sorry to hear about your loss. Had a similar situation a few months ago, had a checking account for almost 40 years with mega bank, when was advised by bank that three checks had been deposited for around $2000 each, all to same payee. I took look at checks, payee was unknown to me and signature not even forged, they were signed by someone with totally different name. Bank put money back into account, advised me that the checks were good photocopies and it happens often. Then went into a frustrating rabbit hole with this mega bank fraud department, they ended up doing a stop payment on all my checks without telling me, refused to honor several checks, and cancelling my internet account access. Never got explanation of where checks were deposited or how they were cleared with signature from someone whose name not on check. Nor do I know how check was obtained and photocopied. Ended up opening entirely new account at another mega bank and spending lots of time transferring direct deposits and auto debit on utilities to new account, from now on hardly ever pay with checks. Good luck.
Last edited by jdb on Sat Jul 23, 2016 7:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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samsoes
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by samsoes »

likegarden wrote:We still pay some bills via check. We place letters containing checks inside a post office into their 'Letters' slot, so it can not be our fault when a check does not arrive.
No, it's not your fault, but it is your responsibility.
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Rupert
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by Rupert »

Intens wrote:
Sandwich wrote:
carolinaman wrote: .....Has anyone else experienced this type of fraud and do you have any suggestions of what else I can do about it. Thanks ....
This happened to our family last year. I believe a check was taken out of a locked USPS receptacle at a local mall and then altered to change the recipient's name and check amount.
That would indicate it was a postal employee.

Didn't the bank have video of the person who tried to deposit the altered check?
It doesn't necessarily indicate that it was a postal employee. Walk into any post office that maintains PO boxes behind those little locked doors. If you tug at the frame around those little doors, the entire wall of boxes will often open exposing all the PO boxes and their contents to anyone in the post office lobby. I'm not going to tell you how I know this, but I will tell you that I'm a federal criminal defense lawyer by trade. There are quite a lot of fraudsters out there who specialize, so to speak, in this type of fraud.

As for the postal service taking OP's problem seriously, they absolutely will. I have worked cases with all federal law enforcement agencies, and I find the postal inspectors to be, in general, meticulous and thorough. They usually do a great job prepping cases for prosecution.
Topic Author
carolinaman
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by carolinaman »

jdb wrote:Sorry to hear about your loss. Had a similar situation a few months ago, had a checking account for almost 40 years with mega bank, when was advised by bank that three checks had been deposited for around $2000 each, all to same payee. I took look at checks, payee was unknown to me and signature not even forged, they were signed by someone with totally different name. Bank put money back into account, advised me that the checks were good photocopies and it happens often. Then went into a frustrating rabbit hole with this mega bank fraud department, they ended up doing a stop payment on all my checks without telling me, refused to honor several checks, and cancelling my internet account access. Never got explanation of where checks were deposited or how they were cleared with signature from someone whose name not on check. Nor do I know how check was obtained and photocopied. Ended up opening entirely new account at another mega bank and spending lots of time transferring direct deposits and auto debit on utilities to new account, from now on hardly ever pay with checks. Good luck.
Thanks jdb. It sounds like yours were deposited at an ATM. It only reads the micr and the amount in numbers on the check.

My game plan right now is to check account daily for suspicious activity. Monday I plan to meet with branch manager at mega bank to see if they advise to change accounts. I have interacted with a branch manager twice and she never suggested any change (but I did not ask either). Monday I am going to another branch which is more upscale and I will have more confidence in their advice.

My daughter worked at a branch bank for several years and said there are two disadvantages to changing: 1) changing all the auto deposits and payments (what is the probability of all that working right the first time), and 2) there are certain advantages accruing to long time accounts such as shorter holds, etc. Not sure #2 means much to mega banks but #1 is a bigger deal.
Ninegrams
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by Ninegrams »

I've always had this concern about checking accounts , which is why I try to keep as little as possible in them at any one time( transferring only enough over to cover any imminent withdrawls). I actually have two online checking accounts, one for electronic payments, and one for check writing( mostly things like birthdays and the like). Using Uni-ball ink pens makes it harder to wash/alter checks. Good luck.
mouses
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by mouses »

It is not that difficult to establish a new checking account. You just have to open the new one up, sit down at the computer and change the deposits and withdrawals. This is not rocket science. Nor does it take two hours.

Then keep both accounts open until you find anything you missed changing and things are working correctly. A couple of months should do that.

Similarly with changing an email address. Have both email accounts open, tell "everyone" your new email address, and catch the ones that still use the old address, after awhile close the old account.
Topic Author
carolinaman
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by carolinaman »

mouses wrote:It is not that difficult to establish a new checking account. You just have to open the new one up, sit down at the computer and change the deposits and withdrawals. This is not rocket science. Nor does it take two hours.

Then keep both accounts open until you find anything you missed changing and things are working correctly. A couple of months should do that.

Similarly with changing an email address. Have both email accounts open, tell "everyone" your new email address, and catch the ones that still use the old address, after awhile close the old account.
Thanks mouses. I met with bank branch manager yesterday and she recommended that I setup a new checking account. She setup it up in a few minutes. All new transactions will go against the new account. There was only one outstanding check and it will be accepted when submitted but nothing else. If someone tries to present fraudulent checks, they will not be accepted. She setup a new PW for phone requests which will thwart any fraud efforts over the phone. All debit transaction will go against new account without having to change debit cards. All auto deposits or payments submitted within next 30 days will be accepted. I must change all of the e-deposits and e-payments to go against the new account after 30 days.

You are correct, it is not hard to setup. Apparently, this is a common problem and banks have a procedure in place to streamline the process. I disagree about the 2 hours to do it though. I have 12 e-deposits or e-checks. I changed as many as I could yesterday, but most require phone contact and most were closed over the weekend. My guess is it will take a total of 5-6 hours to change all of them. The one I thought might be hard was SS and that was easily done.
marlowefamily
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by marlowefamily »

I once was called by a local bank manager....some had digitally created a fake check using my account info and attempted to buy a car with it in New Jersey.

My bank branch is in San Diego and I had been making local credit card transactions in the same day so they knew I couldn't be in two places at the same time.
Kyle R
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by Kyle R »

This is interesting. I recently evicted a tenant who wrote me two bad checks. One bounced, the other was written for two different amounts. The written value was "twelve thousand" while the numerical value was $1,200. Took it to the bank and they wouldn't cash it because of the discrepancy. I'm surprised the bank let your altered check go through in the first place.
NYGiantsFan
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by NYGiantsFan »

It has happened to our business payroll account.
Initial check appeared with old bank name (Bank had changed names 4 - 5 years back) with different branch address than ours and signature not matching to our account. Checks were being deposited to Chase Bank to cash out.
I caught first day check when it came and bank immediately put hold on the account. What that means that they will call us to confirm any check that is coming to particular account before cashing in.
Surprising, they kept coming with totaling more than 50k. Our bank had to fight with Chase (spoke with manager on that) to get first check refund back.

It is so easy do the check fraud now a days. Computer reads the check and only verifies Routing number and Account number. Signature really doesn't seem to matter. I won't be surprised banks have very busy active fraud monitoring departments...
Topic Author
carolinaman
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by carolinaman »

Thanks for all your replies. This is apparently an all too common thing for bank customers. The branch manager recommended that I create a new checking account and close the current one. She was able to do this in a few minutes. They had a process for this that makes it pretty easy except for notifying all of the entities who conduct financial transactions electronically with my accounts. Yesterday, they even sent me an email with all the entities that I have either edoposits or epayments with. That was a nice touch but I had already contacted the 12 entities who needed my new account info.

It is interesting that no 2 of the 12 entities had the same process. I was able to do 3 of them online without human intervention. 2 of those were edeposits (not sure if that is good or bad?). 11 are complete and I am waiting on a call back from the last one, our city water utility. Their call center could not take the information and could not transfer me to the person who could take my information. One organization required me to come to their facility to make the change. Some would not give me an email or written confirmation so I will not know they got it right until they try to draft my account. What are the odds at least one of them gets it wrong? All in all, there are a lot of process and customer service improvement opportunities for these companies. I was appalled at how difficult and customer unfriendly some of these companies make it for people to give them account information so they can take money out of the customer's account. This must be a pretty common request. The guy who said this would take less than 2 hours obviously did not have many accounts and certainly did not do business with my set of companies.
mickroark
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Re: Check Fraud

Post by mickroark »

I have experienced check fraud, and I need to tell you that you will need to wait for the police to investigate this. They will need proof of the fraud to present to the to the county prosecutors office. This could even involve a photo lineup. This also could take a year or two maybe more. I think it took 5 years in my case to get my money back. But the fraudster got 5 years in prison. This is why most business's like to take credit cards, because they don't want the court hassle of bad checks.
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