BULL STREET - The art of the Con

Lock Box - Check Forgery

As our world becomes higher tech, there is still a lot of room on the flip-side for making a fast buck. Moreover, while high-tech forgers have the total attention of the Secret Service, they have literally left the area dominated by nickel and dime counterfeiters alone. Low-tech crime has burgeoned, while we have focused sophisticated more subtle crimes, which often are Internet based. For example, something called lockbox[84] fraud has burgeoned recently. Historically, the lockbox department was an area where the new employees we put to work learning the bank’s procedures. The lock box is the place in the bank where among other things; the checks written on the bank that are being cleared are sorted on a literal production line. As the line continues on its merry way, the checks are separated by account and when they get to the end of the conveyor belt, all of your checks are in a neat stack ready to be sent to you in your monthly statement.

On average, the employees that work the lines are at the lower end of both the pay scale and are usually less educated. However, the fact that they are not highly paid is part of the problem. Criminal organizations are currently paying $50 a item for the checks, which list the account-holder’s name, the bank's name, the account number, the bank routing number, the check number and a copy of the accepted signature. The lure of turning over 100 checks a day and bringing home $5,000 is almost impossible to resist for these low-paid employees to resist. After all, they are really not counterfeiting anything and no one will ever know that it was them that took the checks. With so many people necessary to accomplish this process it is usually impossible to find the culprit. As far as the production line employee is concerned, it is not too difficult a moral decision for someone who has a family to take care of. Moreover, his chances of being caught are infinitesimal unless there is a really serious screw-up. Meanwhile, checks do not clear as to date cashed, they clear relative to the size of the bank possessing them, where it is located and how near it is to a check clearing facility[85].

For that reason, if lockbox thieves are fairly conservative and keep their thefts below the banks' checkpoints, detection is almost impossible until the monthly long after customer’s account is mailed out. Moreover, by keeping the withdrawals small, the theft may not be caught by the owner for a matter of months[86]. Interestingly enough, when a bill is counterfeited it could be caught the day it hits the street.

Modern day scanning equipment creates a literally perfect copy of the owner's signature and even close examination of the check with the signature on file will not disclose a discernable difference. Even if one account is found to have been compromised, there is no direct link from this account to another, thus these transactions must be addressed on an individual basis. Knowing that the theft is going on has nothing to do with stopping it. Making the judgment that the crime is lockbox oriented is not a even always a natural and it is not always clear that the crime this is where the problem is emanating, and even if it is, it may be hard to find the perpetrator. Currently there is no way to really detect or combat this type of crime.

This type of low-tech crime is really insidious and as long as the amounts are kept relatively small, there is absolutely no way of stopping it.



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