Friday, September 26, 2008

Only a photo gives cops clue to cheque forger - - 25 Sep 2008

He's cunning, deceiving and proving to be elusive.

A man that economic crimes investigators can describe, but not name, has managed to fabricate businesses and cash fraudulent cheques at three different banks in the city.

Police have captured his photo but, "I have no idea who this fellow is," said acting Staff Sgt. Dennis Tetreault with the economic crimes section of Edmonton Police Service.

"His method of operation is to open a business account under a phony business with a forged driver's licence from another province, a forged social insurance number (under a fake) business name," he explained.

The man makes the account look legitimate for a few weeks by depositing cheques. Then he withdraws funds before the bank notices counterfeit cheques have been deposited.

While police have focused on educating the public about debit and credit card scams in recent months, the number of bank drafts and cheque frauds in the Edmonton area have skyrocketed.

Earlier this month, Sun Media reported on scam artists who used forged bank drafts to swindle a $110,250 semi-truck from a Myrnam woman, for example.

"We're getting a lot more counterfeit and altered cheque frauds," Tetreault said. "Specifically with business cheques being counterfeited and personal cheques being stolen and altered. Cheques sometimes, though they appear to be legitimate, they can't always be taken at face value."

Officers encourage fraud victims to come forward so the unit can get an idea of "how big this thing is."

But there are no guarantees the cases will be pursued. Investigators are overwhelmed with files, Tetreault said, and they're forced to make large-scale frauds a priority.

"It doesn't mean we're not concerned about the victims," he said. "But we have to pick our battles."

As with all types of economic fraud, technology has helped thieves develop sophisticated techniques. They can get their hands on cheque-writing software or blank cheque stock and "basically, make their own cheques at home," added Tetreault.

Technology, however, is also helping to create more secure payment options. A pattern has emerged, Tetreault pointed out, where security methods in a certain area will improve and fraud cases will go down - until scammers figure out a way to outsmart the new design. It's happened with counterfeit money and it's beginning to emerge with debit and credit cards, he said. But "there are no shortage of scams."

People who use cheques should be particularly careful, he advised. If you're mailing a cheque, for example, double the envelope so no one can tell there's a cheque inside. If you're selling an expensive item like a a car, and the buyer wants to pay with a bank draft or cheque, don't be afraid to take them and the cheque to the bank to verify authenticity.

"Sometimes fraud crimes are considered by some to have less of an impact on the victim versus being assaulted," Tetreault said. "Economically, it can devastate


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