Pelham Police Department noticing half of cases involve check fraud

Published: Dec. 17, 2022 at 7:30 PM CST
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PELHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - An investigator with the Pelham Police Department says around half of their cases involve check fraud.

This coming after the department announced Thursday they arrested Rocky Allen Townsend for mail theft and check fraud.

“Noticeable increase,” said Detective Sergeant Brad Johnson. “On our end, about 50% of our case load now is check fraud related.”

He said the increase started over the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were targeting the unemployment and COVID-19 relief checks, but it’s now evolved.

“Primarily what we see in Shelby County are targeted mailboxes,” said Jordan. “It initially started primarily with our commercial districts and then kinda rotated to our residential areas.”

Jordan says they find many of the thieves are coming from larger cities like Atlanta.

“When interviewed, they will tell us that they were told all you gotta do is go to Birmingham, hit 65 and go south about 10-15 blocks and everything down there is wide open,” said Jordan. “That is word of mouth in Atlanta, Georgia and that indicates we do have a problem.”

Some of the thefts result in check washing, where someone uses household products to remove the ink without altering the face of the check.

According to Jordan, they write their own information in the check and cash it for a larger amount than what it was originally written for.

So how can you avoid falling victim? Jordan says the main things: keeping a close eye on your accounts and not allowing a check to sit in the mailbox for an extended period of time.

There is one more interesting tip, though.

“Using a regular gel pen which does not seem to react to the chemicals that these check washers are using as a typical pen might,” said Jordan. “Anything that uses indelible ink appears to thwart their attempts.”

If you think you’ve fallen victim to a check fraud crime, make sure to notify your bank immediately and then law enforcement.

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