RIPON - Check fraud is on the rise.
It is costing San Joaquin County businesses and individuals millions of dollars a year.
Three Ripon police officers set up shop at the Community Center Wednesday night to explain to the citizens the merits of fighting check fraud in today’s world.
Detective Anthony DeMarinis and officers Danny Sauer and Matt Ford arranged their schedules to be available for the presentation and any questions involving consumers and business finances.
Officers offered handouts that explained that a significant amount of check fraud is due to counterfeiting through home desktop publishing and copying to create or to duplicate an actual financial document – changing names and amounts payable to someone else.
Police noted that in many cases the crime begins with the theft of a check or other financial document from homes, personal vehicles or by digging through waste containers for cancelled checks that have been discarded.
The use of a personal computer along with a scanner and a high-grade laser printer can easily produce a credible check that can be used to obtain cash from a valid bank account, police noted.
Chemicals and solvents such as acetone, brake fluid and bleach are used to remove or modify handwriting, printing and other information on an original check. Spot alteration was described as removing either the payee’s name or the amount on a check to be replaced by another amount and another person’s name in a counterfeiting operation.
Erasing the original information from the entire check is referred to as check washing with the use of the chemicals and solvents.
Residents are also being asked to be on the lookout for “paperhanging” operations where people are purposely writing checks on closed accounts – theirs and others they don’t necessarily know.
Check kiting has been made easier in recent years due to the new regulations requiring banks to make funds available to their customers in less time after a deposit. Kiting is done with the use of two separate banks’ accounts using the “float time” for one account to support the other creating fraudulent balances.
The officers noted that the annual losses across the county involving check fraud are in the millions of dollars and continue to grow as criminals continue to seek ways to earn a living by defrauding others.
Police had a series of check fraud tips for members of the Ripon community and specifically Patrol Area 2 covering the northeast section of Ripon.
Officers warned that citizens should not mail bills from their home mailboxes during the nighttime hours – the mailbox being a favorite location for a criminal to snatch a check they will use to defraud the homeowner.
They also noted that if a home is burglarized, the residents should check their supply of checks to determine if any have been stolen by thieves. Burglars will often take only one or two checks among several books so that it takes longer to realize any are missing.
Police also advised that citizens reconcile their bank statements within 30 days to be sure to detect any irregularities that might otherwise go unnoticed for months.
Probably the most important is to never give an unknown party a bank account number, especially over the telephone. Fraud artists can use any account number without authorization and the owner may find they are responsible for the surprises that show up on their account.