Its not like somebody locally trying to counterfeit checks and get by with something, said Lynn Shepard, senior vice president for Security Federal Bank, on Richland Avenue in Aiken. These people are real crooks.
Ms. Shepard said officials believe an unknown group out of Canada has been using the banks name on fake cashiers 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.
Weve seen checks being negotiated all over the country, she said. ...What theyre 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 ultimately 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 they cant be located.
Its 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 cashiers checks havent cropped up locally, with the nearest case being found in Greenville, S.C.
She said the fake checks have a very professional look It just doesnt look like ours.
She said her institution isnt sure how or why its name is being used, but they found out about it through some people who checked with the bank before becoming a secret shopper.
They were aware enough to know that if somebody is asking them to send money back...that something may be wrong, she said.
Ms. Shepard said there are many other such scams involving fake cashiers checks, and she just hopes this case prevents more people from being victimized.
Its the same as the Nigerian scams a while back, she said. They send you a check thats more than what youre supposed to be getting and they ask you to cash the check and then go to Western Union and send the money back to them...We still continue to see people try to negotiate these kind of deals.
Anyone who believes theyve 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.