** FRAUD ALERT **

A local banking institution recently issued a warning that thieves have been targeting landscaping companies in the Front Range, stealing checks from their mailboxes. The checks are then deposited with forged signatures and/or the checks are reprinted for additional fraudulent transactions. Once the account number on the check has been compromised, the account must be closed. One problem, however, is that it may take some time before the landscaper or management company discovers the scheme. At that point, irreversible damage may already have been done.

Should you discover this kind of fraudulent activity, you should report it to your bank immediately. Time is of the essence in redressing these situations. The bank will have you fill out paperwork that may include a fraud report and affidavit. The bank may also require you to file a police report. Depending upon the specific circumstances of the case, the bank may be liable for accepting a check that has been forged, altered or improperly endorsed. However, banks do not always have to accept responsibility. If your company’s actions, i.e. the way your accounts are handled or the way the check was issued, contributed to the fraud or forgery, your company may be at least partially liable – and thus unable to recover all of the stolen funds.

What can you do to protect against this problem? Make sure you discuss this issue with the landscaping companies that you use. Encourage them to maintain secure payment locations (locked mailboxes/P.O. boxes). You can also discuss alternative forms of payment with them, such as electronic fund transfers. Always review your bank statements carefully for any unusual transactions, and always report anything that looks wrong or strange to your bank.

For more information regarding your bank’s procedures and requirements when it comes to responding to fraud claims, take a look at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s website at www.helpwithmybank.gov.