Banks warned: Cheque fraud on the rise

Latest figures from the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) show fraudsters attempted to cash more than GH¢923,883.86 using 26 cloned cheques at various banks last year.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer of FIC, Mr Philip Danso, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that eight cloned cheques with the face value of GH¢88,623.54 were successfully drawn by fraudsters.

Out of the 26 cloned cheques presented to the banks to be cashed, 18 of the cheques with face value of GH¢835,260.32 were detected and returned unpaid.

Some suspects, he said, had been grabbed, while others who attempted to dupe various banks are on the run.

He said technological advancement had contributed to the spread of cheque cloning fraud with all manner of printers, software and other technologies being used to make cheques that look so perfect that it would take experts a lot of laboratory analysis before the forgery is detected.

“As our payment methods continue to change, fraudsters will also find new ways to trick banks of their money.” he spoke to GRAPHIC BUSINESS on the sidelines of a two-day media training workshop organised by the Journalists for Business Advocacy (JBA) at Prampram near Accra.

He explained that thieves used printers, copiers and the newest software to make clone cheques with high resemblance to the original ones. Many times these are hard to be recognised as false cheques even by experts.

“This shows that fraudsters are stepping up their efforts to steal money from our bank accounts,” he warned.

“One of the ways to successfully fight cheque forgery and cloning in the banking sector is to employ a higher and more sophisticated technology,” Mr Danso said.

“The 2013 figures are similar to the 2014 number we are seeing and it shows that the fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated,” he added.

The deputy head of the centre that detects and investigates money laundering and other financial crimes warned that in recent times where banks faced stiff competition and were looking for ways to reduce cost, they could not afford to lose millions of cedis to cheque cloning; hence it was advisable for the banks to deploy technologies to arrest the menace.

The workshop, which was sponsored by Ecobank Ghana, which was under the theme: “Improving knowledge base on the financial and Economic reporting,” was to upgrade the skills of journalists in financial and business journalism.

Mr Danso noted that cheque forgery had attained a worrisome level in the local and international financial landscape going by its negative impact on Ghana’s economy and the entire global economy.

The cloned cheques menace could stop foreign investors from investing in an economy; this would have a significant effect on job creation thereby leading to massive unemployment, according to him.

He is also worried that the reputation of the country would be dented by the nuisance, while businesses in severe cloned cheques economies also suffer from the brunt.

Fighting cheque fraud

Officials of various banks the GRAPHIC BUSINESS surveyed said their banks had instituted various methods to prevent cheque fraud.

The common preventive method included sending SMS alerts to both payer and drawer in cheque transactions as soon as the instruments were received for clearing.

Expressing concern over the rise in cheque-related fraud cases, banks have made SMS alerts mandatory for such transactions.

Some banks also alert a customer with a phone call and obtain confirmation when dealing with suspicious or high-value cheques.

“The rise in the number of cheque-related fraud cases is a matter of serious concern. It is evident that many of such frauds could have been avoided had due diligence been observed at the time of handling and/or processing the cheques and monitoring newly-opened accounts,” said Mr Fitzgerald Okyere, a retired banker.

Mr Okyere said although crossed cheques leave a better money trail that can be investigated, fraudsters have managed to encash cheques by presenting them into accounts opened fraudulently.

“It has been reported that in some cases, even though the original cheques were in the custody of the customer, cheques with the same series had been presented and encashed by fraudsters.”

Mr Okyere advised banks to take appropriate precautionary measures to ensure that the confidential information, viz. customer name, account number, signature, cheque serial numbers and other related information were neither compromised nor misused either from the bank or from the vendors.

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