A 22-year old Factoryville, Pennsylvania resident has been charged with identity theft, receiving stolen property and forgery. This was after he allegedly went on a shopping spree with another man’s personal checkbook.
The defendant, James E. Rought, is currently facing 22 charges that include 7 counts of felony forgery. The fraudulent checks were written from August 19 to 27. It is speculated that the victim’s checks were stolen from his vehicle.
Since checks were first introduced, there have always been associated scams linked with them. As in the example above, check forgery was the usual method of stealing from the victim. The scam artist would secure an individual’s checkbook and forge their signature. The result would be a victim with an emptied bank account.
In the age of computer technology, the scams have since become more elaborate and sophisticated. We now rely on computers to do just about everything from organizing our lives to global communication. Most companies will conduct business online with their customers. Because of this, scam artists have become more creative in their goal of stealing a quick buck from their victims.
These days, check scams have taken on a new look. Initially, the thief will steal a check from various sources. These sources can include mailboxes, retail stores or a charity outlet. More elaborate scams involve sending out fake checks that seem to come from lottery or sweepstakes contest winnings. The identities can then be stolen from the bogus deposited checks. The stolen identities will be used to create fake driver’s licenses, fake credit cards and additional checks.
With sophisticated computer and printers, bogus checks can easily be made to look like the originals. Of course, the fake IDs will match the information on the newly created checks. In this manner, a scam artist will have effectively stolen a person’s identity.
The biggest problem is that many people believe that the other party is responsible for their checks. What we need to understand is that checks are not always deposited immediately. An example of this occurred at an elementary school in Novato, California. In this instance, a school break resulted in an identity theft ring stealing personal bank information. The banking information was obtained from checks that had been written to the school, but not yet deposited. Over two hundred people had their personal information compromised.
One of the problems with a check forgery scam is that the thief will usually be able to readily use the checks. Unlike credit cards, a check will not automatically be declined for an overdrawn account status. In most cases, a perfectly forged signature is not even necessary.
It’s possible to be libel for a forged check, even though this is not usually the case in most states. Unfortunately, check forgery, unlike credit cards, carries no liability protection. Usually, you can avoid losing money if you demonstrate reasonable precaution. But there is no guarantee.
If you “stop payment” on a stolen check then the check will “bounce”. Vendors will turn the check over to their check service company. A large vendor may have their own recovery department. Expect intimidating letters, in any case. You will also need to cancel your bank checking account. This is due to the account being marked as a ‘bad’ account. Unfortunately, this situation cannot be repaired. You need to open a new account.
If your driver’s license was used in conjunction with a forged check, then the license is also marked as ‘bad’. If you live in a state where obtaining a new driver’s license number is difficult, your check writing days may be over. You must also report the crime to the police and obtain copies of the police report. You will also need to submit an affidavit of forgery for each check.
Ironically, if you fail to stop payment, things might actually not be as bad. If you see the problem on your bank statement, your bank might work with you on the matter. They may absorb the cost or deal with the merchant. In any case, they are far less likely to attack your credit rating. You will still, of course, need to close the checking account.
Some things you can do to protect yourself from identity theft check scams include:
• Use your first initial along with your last name on your checks. The thief may then be unable to know what your full name is.
• Monitor your banking account online daily.
• Sign up for any fraud alert services offered by your bank.
• Don’t cash fake lottery or sweepstakes checks that come in the mail.
• Above all, safeguard your personal checks and don’t leave them in places like unattended purses and vehicles.