The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, states that counterfeit check scams are on the rise. Some fake checks look so real that bank tellers are reporting being fooled. The scammers use high quality printers and scanners to make the checks look real. Some of the checks contain authentic-looking watermarks. These counterfeit checks are printed with the names and addresses of legitimate financial institutions. And even though the bank and account and routing numbers listed on a counterfeit check may be real, the check still can be a fake. These fakes come in many forms, from cashier’s checks and money orders to corporate and personal checks.
A teller must be fast, efficient, competent and well-versed in money, monetary transactions and financial instruments. The teller must be sufficiently worldly-wise to cope with the professional “paperhanger” who makes a comfortable living by defrauding financial institutions and merchants out of hundreds of millions of dollars annually. There is no substitute for experience in the teller’s arsenal of defense weapons, but until that experience has been acquired and carefully developed, intelligent training methods must fill the gap.
A scammer’s goal is to become your customer. Once an accountholder, the thief can wait patiently (typically months not years) to deposit fake checks into their account and then move the money before the bank is on to them. Once an accountholder defrauds the bank they move on so the likelihood of collection is extremely low.
Decision making on the teller line around checks that are acceptable to cash or take for deposit is complex. Here are critical questions and concerns to ponder:
- Who is this customer?
- How long have they been my customer?
- What is their average balance?
- How much is in their account?
- How have they managed the account – NSFs?
- Would the bank loan this amount of money to this customer unsecured for ten days?
- Don’t be lulled into feeling comfortable by placing a REG CC hold. Whenever the character of the presenter is unknown or questionable or when the amount exceeds the customer’s “credit history” a routine REG CC hold will not offer enough protection. A hold is never a solution for potential or probable fraud. Never use a hold when the amount is excessive. Those items must be sent for collection or the presenter can take the check to the financial institution it is drawn on.