GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Police Department is warning people about an increase in check fraud. In the last 90 days the GFPD has initiated more than 100 new fraud investigations, and most involve criminals that are:
- cashing checks stolen from mail boxes
- passing illegitimate, altered, or manufactured checks
- using identification and checks that match each other but do not belong to the suspect
"We've got suspects that are either stealing them out of mailboxes, there's some scam stuff going on on the phones. People are asking to have checks made, things along those lines, and getting them shipped to them,” said Lt. Doug Otto of the GFPD.
Otto said the checks are mostly being used at local businesses. Veronica Ronnau owns Pizazz in downtown Great Falls. She said she very rarely gets checks, but always tries to make sure they're legit when she does.
"If they're our regular customers, we don't hassle with that. But if it's somebody new, you know this is a small store so we pretty much know our customers and we always love to see new faces but we will ID you,” Ronnau said.
Otto encourages businesses to not just look at the ID though: "Really study the ID. Ask the person to take their mask off. That's an important piece. You have that right as a business owner to be able to do that. If that person gets frustrated and upset, there's probably a concern there right away.”
While check fraud may not be a huge concern for Ronnau given the small number of checks she receives, she's sad to see it happening. "When stuff like this happens then you have to review your policies and you say, 'Well, do we really want to accept checks?' and 'What's the exception to the rule?' and stuff like that. So it just becomes cumbersome,” Ronnau said.
The GFPD strongly recommends that businesses ask customers to remove hats, sunglasses, hoods, and face coverings to verify that their identity matches the photo on the ID they are presenting. If thumb printing with check transactions is an option, ensure this is done so diligently. These precautions should be implemented, without exception, at all walk-up and drive-thru facilities.
If you use checks to conduct personal or commercial business, do not be offended if you are asked to present identification and to remove your mask for a few seconds. It may be an inconvenience, but ensuring your identity protects you and benefits the security of our entire community.
Please report if your ID is stolen or if you see suspicious activity on your bank account; call us if you see someone tampering with a mail box that is not theirs: GFPD NON-EMERGENCY 406-727-7688 extension 5.