ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- In the age of mobile deposits, fraudsters can now take advantage of technology to try and cash the same check more than once.
Earlier this year, Elanor Bowen of St. Louis sent a $95 check to an out of state company after getting an official looking letter in the mail. She was trying to get her property deed but didn't know she did not need to pay that much for the document. She contacted her bank after she found out, but the check had already been cashed.
“The check had been cashed just a few days after I sent it, so the bank said they would put a stop payment on the check for a full year at no cost to me” said Bowen.
The bank teller told Bowen about a rise in fraud-related cases involving already-cashed checks, cases where individuals cash the same check more than once.
As Bowen described, "I said, 'But the check has already been cashed,' and they said, 'Yes, but it’s not unheard of in situations like this for the people who are committing the fraud to repeatedly cash the check.'"
It turns out the crossover between old-school banking and mobile tech is giving bad actors an opportunity.
"A lot of consumers are using mobile deposit capture now ,and they don’t immediately throw the check away or destroy it” said Shirley Inscoe.
Inscoe is a senior analyst with AITE group, a research firm that tracks business and technology. A few years ago, she warned that scammers might transition to this type of crime with the rise in chip card technology. But she said COVID-19 caused an increase in this type of fraud.
“Frankly, the biggest increase we saw was probably last year though and it wasn’t after the chip cards it was because of the pandemic," she said. "We saw more consumers in this country, millions more, using mobile banking and online banking than ever before and we saw a much larger percentage of customers choosing mobile deposit capture. So obviously the more volume you get, the more chances there are that problems will occur.”
In the early days of the pandemic, many bank branches closed their doors and raised the amount that people could deposit via their cell phone. Inscoe stressed while double-cashing checks did spike during the pandemic, it's not an everyday occurrence for banks.
Also, that type of fraud is usually caught when someone tries to do it within the same bank. As for tracking fraudulent transactions using different financial institutions, Inscoe said new products and software are coming to market shortly that could help solve the problem.
Inscoe recommended people monitor their checking accounts closely and to balance their accounts more than once a month. She said people should monitor their accounts if they write a check. Also, they should keep track of checks they deposit via mobile deposit and destroy them after they are cashed.