True Fraud Stories: Check Washing
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Transcript of the conversation can be found below.
Lynn: Stacy, many of our customers are really aware that mail fraud is on the rise. Can you share what mail fraud actually is?
Stacy: Mail fraud is when our customers’ mail is taken from their mailboxes or intercepted through delivery. And then what the fraudsters do with that information is they’ll use the customer’s personal information to steal their identity, or even taken alter their payroll checks in what we call “check washing.”
Lynn: I understand there was a recent incident where some checks had been stolen and altered, but intercepted by the bank, can you tell us what happened there?
Stacy: Of course Lynn. So we had a customer come in a few weeks ago, and she was a little bit upset about some withdrawals that were taken her account. And she couldn’t quite understand why they were so high. I brought her into the office and pulled up her accounts. And I was able to see the images of the checks. And I’m like, Well, this check looks like it was written out to this customer for $8,000. And she’s like, Well, no, it was written out to this person for only — it was like $82. So the person who had stolen their checks, had actually done some — I don’t even know how they do it. But they wash the front of the check, and they change who was written out to and the dollar amount. Knowing a little bit more about the bank process, I found out where the check was cashed, or was tried to be cashed. And I contacted the bank, and the bank had noticed on that end that it didn’t look right, and they were holding that check. So the person wasn’t able to get the money at that time.
Lynn: What is it that you notice when you have a check that you suspect may have been altered?
Stacy: So with this particular check, I had pulled up some prior checks that had been signed by their treasurer and I noticed that the signatures weren’t the same, the font of the handwriting was very different.
Lynn: So Stacy, when you discover fraud like this, what’s the first thing you do?
Stacy: The first thing I do is try to reassure the customer that we’re gonna do everything in our power to help them, then the very next step that we did is I explained to her that her best course of action would be to close that account completely. And so we set up a brand new account for them.
Lynn: Stacy, what are some things customers could do to be aware of and really prevent fraud from happening?
Stacy: One of the biggest things is just knowing your accounts. Online banking is huge and being in there being in there every day, being very vigilant about watching your account. With this particular customer, that’s what she was doing. She was checking the accounts like she normally does. And also one of the biggest tips that we gave to them was not just put it in a regular mailbox, but to actually take it into the post office and that should help to prevent it from getting into the wrong hands.
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