A check scam has left Effingham’s Coastal Bank holding the bag as they were taken for about $13,000 in a check fraud scam on the last day of 2009.
Effingham County Sheriff’s deputies are warning citizens and businesses on a new trend in which criminals have found another way to rip people off.
The process starts by a homeless person or another participant with identification, called a “check runner,” being recruited at a homeless shelter. The “driver” will then take the runner to designated locations, usually banks, where the person will go inside with a fictitious company check made out in his name. The runner usually will receive a small portion of the check once it is cashed.
But the check fraud attempts are not always successful. On Dec. 31, Effingham County Sheriff’s deputies responded to The Coastal Bank on Highway 21 on a report of two individuals attempting to cash fictitious checks. Deputies arrested two homeless individuals who were driven to Effingham County from homeless shelters in Atlanta to cash the fictitious checks.
Rodmon Taylor, 44, of Atlanta, and James Bass, 28, of Atlanta, were both arrested and charged with forgery in the first degree and deposit account fraud. The driver left the scene prior to deputies’ arrival.
Effingham County Sheriff’s officials said they were glad to be able to apprehend these two, but that they would really like to get the guys at the top of the scheme. They also said that out of the $13,000 taken in this incident, these guys might have received about $500 and that the “real money” made its way to these top guys.
Deputies believe that this is an organized scheme that appears to possibly be moving to our area. Citizens, as well as banks, are encouraged to take precautions such as monitoring their accounts routinely and not leaving sensitive documents in mailboxes that can be accessed by others.
Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie noted the check fraud seems to be a new trend.
“We’ve had reports of this happening in Atlanta,” he said. “The homeless, or some other person, called a check runner, is recruited at a shelter and gets some portion of the fraudulent check when it’s cashed.”
McDuffie said this appears to be an organized crime effort and urged businesses and individuals to be vigilant in monitoring their accounts and personal information.
“Anyone who suspects they are a victim of identity theft or fraud is encouraged to follow up with their local law enforcement agency,” he said.