Last Friday afternoon, one of our Member Service Representatives here at REGIONAL helped a member avoid becoming a victim of a mystery shopper scam.
The member let us keep the check, and I spent quite a while examining it.
It was a very good counterfeit. The kind of thing that might slip right by if you weren’t paying attention (or even if you were). In this case, the member’s story tipped her off—he was going to wire almost the entire amount after he cashed it.
For one thing, the check was on genuine cashier’s check stock. It had all the security features, including watermarks and “fingerprint security” (where you hold your thumb over a symbol and it reacts to your body heat and disappears). So the presence of security features doesn’t prove anything anymore.
The check was from a company called Malteurop (more on that later), with an address in Milwaukee, WI. It was drawn on US Bank in Havre, MT. The routing number was a valid US Bank number, but for Minneapolis, MN. It just didn’t add up. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if those different cities are a reliable sign of fraud or not, but it did seem a little suspicious. A Milwaukee firm using a Montana bank with a Minnesota routing number?
Furthermore, Malteurop is a real company—one that supplies malt to beer companies all over the world. It would make no sense for this company to be checking out the customer service at Western Union.
At any rate, examining the check was interesting, but as I said before, the teller knew it was counterfeit just by talking to the member. I suppose that’s good advice for all financial institutions: have your frontline staff engage your members or customers in conversation. The information you gain could help save someone from fraud or identity theft.
I haven’t acquired the ability to read the fractional routing numbers on checks, to see if they agree with the routing number at the bottom, but I’ll be working on that skill soon.
I’d like to be like Frank Abagnale (remember Catch Me If You Can?), where you can hand me a stack of drafts and I can flip through them one time and say, “This one’s fake!” Only I’d like to get there without, you know, having committed check fraud or done time in prison for it.
- Security features and a valid routing number on a check don’t mean a thing
- I can’t help but feel proud when one of our tellers makes a catch like this. Nice!