"It's not like somebody locally trying to counterfeit checks and get by with something," said Lynn Shepard, the senior vice president for Security Federal Bank, on Richland Avenue in Aiken. "These people are real crooks."
Ms. Shepard said officials believe a group out of Canada has been using the bank's name on fake cashier's checks and mailing them throughout the country as part of a secret shopper ploy where people are asked to shop at such large businesses as Sears.
"We've seen checks being negotiated all over the country," she said. "What they're asking them (the unknowing victims) to do is to cash the checks and return a certain portion to them and spend a certain amount of money at each store and then fill out a survey."
The bank that cashes the check sends it to the Aiken bank for reimbursement, but when the Aiken bank determines it to be a fake they send it back as such.
"When their bank gets them back, then the bank holds their customer responsible for it," Ms. Shepard said.
Meanwhile, the group in Canada, she said, has already received their amount from the "secret shopper" and can't be located.
"It's really, really difficult to catch people who do things like this," she said, adding that the address people mail the money back to in Canada "is usually just a drop box or some place like that."
Ms. Shepard said the nearest case was found in Greenville, S.C.
She said her institution found out about it through some people who checked with the bank before becoming a secret shopper.
Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
According to an alert report issued this week with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Security Federal Bank in Aiken has reported that there are three versions of the counterfeit cashier's checks, with a routing number of 253271822.
- One displays an ornate design along the top and side borders, the alert states, and has "Cashier's Check" inside a rectangular box within the top border.
- Another is similar to authentic cashier's checks but has a dark solid border along the top embedded with a security feature statement. The words "Cashier's Check" are in the top center.
- A third has thinner ornate top and side borders and a security feature on the top border. According to the FDIC, an authentic cashier's check will have a light green or light blue background, the bank's name, logo and address in the top left corner and the words "Cashier's Check" and indemnification requirements for lost, stolen or misplaced checks in the lower left corner.
Source: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
REPORT A SCAM
Anyone who believes they've been a victim of this scam or knows of such a counterfeit can call Security Federal Bank in Aiken at (803) 641-3000 or toll-free at (866) 851-3000.