Bank customers have been warned by the SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) to look out for scams involving payment by cheque. Cheque fraud is on the rise and businesses need to watch out, the centre says.
Perpetrators are targeting businesses by approaching them with urgent orders for goods and a promise of payment to be made into the business’s bank account.
The promise is often supported by a proof of a cash deposit or electronic payment, but the payment is made with a fraudulent cheque.
Chad Thomas, IRS Forensic Services chief investigating officer, said this was the most common type of fraud.
“People knowingly use fraudulent cheques or they fabricate false proof of confirmation or deposit slips,” he said.
In some cases, banks noticed incidents in which pages of business cheques were removed from cheque books and then presented by fraudsters for large cash withdrawals.
“It is not unusual for staff working for businesses to collude with perpetrators.
“The perpetrators forge signatures of directors with cheque signing powers,” said Kalvani Pillay, chief executive officer of Sabric.
Syndicates have also been known to steal cheques from the post office. These are usually used cheques on their way back to their owners. Fraudsters copy the information on these cheques to produce fakes.
“Criminals are very clever,” said Thomas. “We have set up an anonymous tip-off line and we are able to trace some fraudsters through their bank accounts, but it is not always easy.”
Banks had preventive measures to clear cheques before cashing them, but thieves seemed to have found ways to get around them.
“It is absolutely crucial for anyone receiving a payment to ensure that the payment is made in cash. If it has been a cheque payment, the recipient of the payment should wait until the cheque is cleared by the bank before releasing any goods,” Pillay said.
The centre has advised bank customers to keep cheque books in a safe place, and to immediately report lost or stolen cheques. It has stressed that customers should not use cheques unnecessarily and should shred all old cheque books.