CEO of First National Bank (FNB) Core Banking Solutions, Galia Durbach this week warned that cheque fraud is rife and warned customers to be careful.
“FNB has done much to reduce cheque fraud, including introducing a high-tech range of cheques. However, despite these efforts, many bank customers still fall prey to cheque and deposit fraud.???
“Customers are frequently defrauded by cheque interception. On average, a cheque is handled by up to 20 people from the time you make it out to the time your branch pays it. This means that there are numerous opportunities for the cheque to be intercepted.
“Most commonly this happens when cheques are posted, as this increases the number of times the cheque may be handled, and consumers should be advised never to post a cheque,??? Durbach explains.
“Another common way in which customers are defrauded is in accepting a cheque or bank deposit when selling goods. Often the cheque or the deposit turns out to be fraudulent and the seller is out of pocket.???
Durbach advises sellers never to release goods until they are certain that the payment is valid.
“Always wait for the funds to be cleared before releasing goods, even if it seems to be a bank issued cheque. While the cheque may appear to be genuine, fraudsters have even gone so far as to print their own cheques. The cheque could also be stolen. Even if the cheque is genuine, there are certain circumstances when bank-issued cheques will not be honoured,??? adds Durbach.
“Never accept a faxed bank deposit slip as proof of payment. Figures and details can easily be changed to reflect a higher value or that it is a cash deposit. Check with your bank first that the correct amount has been deposited and whether the deposit is cash or cheque. If it is a cheque deposit, wait until the cheque has been paid (usually this will take seven days) before you release goods. Don’t be pressurised into releasing the goods sooner.???
There are a number of things you can do to guard against cheque fraud. These steps include writing out the cheque using a ball-point pen, writing in the cheque as close to the left hand margin as is possible without leaving any gaps; storing cheque books and even old cheque returned with bank statements in a safe place and reporting lost or stolen cheques and cheque books to your bank without delay.
As an aside, if you are handed a cheque as payment for your goods or services and the cheque bounces, there is a relatively quick procedure available called provisional sentence. This procedure enables you to effectively take judgment against the issuer of the cheque at the inception of the litigation. The issuer would have to pay up if he/she then wishes to dispute the matter further.