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Forgery & Altered Documents...Part IV

Document Alteration Techniques...continued

Substance Abuse & Addiction Forgeries
Offenders often exhibit "addictive" behavior involving substance abuse and relationships, and offenders associate primarily with other "addicts". The documents involved may either be stolen by an offender or received as payment for illegal goods and/or services. These crimes are committed by all types of offenders who may be simultaneously engaged in many types of crimes. These crimes include "commonplace" crimes and occur when the offender obtains negotiable and non-negotiable documents during the commission of related crimes, including:

  • Burglary;
  • Robbery;
  • Car theft and car-jacking;
  • Embezzlement;
  • Shoplifting;
  • Extortion;
  • Loan-sharking;
  • Prostitution;
  • Sales of narcotics

Career Offender Forgeries
These offenders have developed a special talent that is highly valued by other offenders. These offenders are professionals and they are among the most respected and highest paid of all offenders. The career forger creates or alters negotiable and non-negotiable documents for sale to other offenders, such as:

  • Identities, identification cards and support documents;
  • Counterfeit currency;
  • Federal, state and local warrants;
  • Deeds and reconveyances;
  • Letters of credit;
  • Wills and trusts;
  • Fictitious checks, deposit and withdrawal forms;
  • Imprinted credit cards;
  • Prescriptions;
  • Securities, stocks and bonds;
  • Title, transfer and registration forms.

Common Forgery Schemes
The types of forgery schemes are only limited by the offender's imagination, talent and tools. The most common - and successful - forgery crimes include:

  • Cashing a stolen check;
  • Customer impersonation schemes and identify theft;
  • Forged withdrawal forgery;
  • Split deposit or "less-cash" forgery;
  • Forged loan or line of credit application;
  • Authorization note withdrawal;
  • Travelers check;
  • Money order; and
  • Warrant

Cashing a Stolen Check
The offender obtains a check by one of the methods already described and he/she may have the identification of the accountholder and/or payee. The offender forges the accountholder's or payee's name to the check and presents it for payment. These checks are normally pre-endorsed - and all pre-endorsed documents presented for payment should be signed again in a teller's presence.

Customer Impersonation Schemes & Identify Theft
Checks and supporting identification documents are obtained by methods previously described and will be used by an offender to establish a checking account using this false or stolen identification. The account will be opened with a minimum deposit and no further deposits will be made to this account. The offender will then issue numerous checks, knowing that the financial institution will not be able to provide any accurate information to the recipients seeking payment for returned checks.

Another version of this scheme is to establish a savings or checking account using the false or stolen identification. The offender then deposits several stolen and forged checks into this account. The institution will begin receiving telephone calls from various sources, asking if the deposited checks have "cleared yet." If any of the stolen or forged checks do clear (post) and the routine hold is lifted, the offender will immediately attempt to cash a check or withdraw funds from the account. He/she will normally go to a branch different from the branch that maintains the account.

Forged Withdrawal Forgery
Actual account information is necessary for a forged withdrawal scheme to succeed. The offender obtains a savings account, checking account or credit card number by one of the methods described and then attempts to withdraw funds by impersonating the accountholder. This attempted withdrawal may be in the form of a counter check, lobby withdrawal slip, personalized withdrawal slip in the name of the accountholder, or a credit card cash advance. The offender will also normally attempt this withdrawal at a branch different than the branch that maintains the account.

Split Deposit Or "Less-Cash" Forgery
Checks and supporting documents are obtained by the methods already described and they are then used to enter account information on a deposit form of an accountholder. Several stolen and forged checks will actually be deposited to that victim's account by the offender, who will then ask to receive "less cash" in an amount normally equal to one-half to two-thirds of the amount of the deposit. Normally three to five stolen personal and/or company checks are deposited, usually in an amount that doesn't exceed $2,000.00. The offender may attempt an immediate cash withdrawal, or have an accomplice go to another branch in order to make a withdrawal.

Another variation of this scheme is committed by the bookkeeper or accountant of a commercial accountholder - whoever is responsible for making the deposits at the business' financial institution. The offender will deposit checks and cash to the business account and will then attempt to withdraw funds from this deposit on a "less cash" basis. This is one of the primary means of embezzlement committed by persons associated with a business. Commercial accounts - particularly sole proprietorship accounts - should never be used for "less cash" transactions. The deposit should be received and cash issued only after the accountholder creates another document that separates the transactions and leaves an audit trail.

(to be continued...)

Copyright © 2006 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers Hotline, Vol. 16, No. 5, 7/06

First published on 07/01/2006

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