At this time of year we are grateful for many things but our gratitude does not extend to the activities of the criminal underbelly afoot throughout our world. MCAA was hit by a check scam this past week. To date it is fairly small but I imagine that a good number of checks are floating out there purportedly from MCAA. We didn’t write them or send them and some poor souls are going to cash them and get stung.
Very simply put, MCAA has an ACH checking account into which members can electronically transfer their payments to the Association. We do not write checks/do not have checks for this account. The only place that the account number appeared was on invoices issued by the Association. That was where we made our mistake. Checks have been presented around the country written as if from MCAA (our address, logo and signed with my name although not my signature) drawn on this ACH account. We have closed the account and no money was withdrawn from our account as a result of this scam. If a bank or check cashing agent processes the check, it could take days or even weeks before it will bounce back as fraudulent. Then the person presenting the check will be tagged with the amount of the bad check. We understand that the targets are often people who have advertised for jobs or services through online services such as Craig’s List. They are not dishonest people but they may be duped. As always: if its seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
For small businesses like ours (which never thought they could be the target of such a scheme), a legitimate-looking check written on your business account could draw down on your funds before you know someone had targeted you. Lucky for us, the account was not a checking account and was stopped before it started. If you’re not already monitoring your accounts every day or don’t have fraud protection from your bank … its probably time to do that.
The important message of this incident is to ensure that you have instituted appropriate processes within your own business to protect yourself and those with whom you do business. Key among those practices is to SHRED all correspondence before it leaves your offices. We believe that one of our invoices was cadged from trash and used to create very real looking checks. Someone with graphics capability—and probably a long history of this kind of illegal activity—was involved in this scheme. They took the time to research MCAA and get my name (because it appears no where on the invoices that we issue). And it could happen to you if you have documents which contain banking information which are not being handled in a proper fashion either by you or by your customers or suppliers. SHRED documents and ask your employees to report anyone nosing around your trash bins.
I hope you will pass this information on to your employees and make them aware that even their own personal checking accounts could be compromised if they are not vigilant. All a scam artist needs is the routing number and the checking account number. Often they take a picture with their cell phone. Fraud protection insurance from your bank costs a little over $100 a year and you’ll never be responsible for the loss.
We are advising all companies who have used our ACH account in the past that there is a new account number. We will only provide that account number through a fax (not online) and we will no longer publish that account number on our invoices. If you wish to pay by ACH transfer you will have to contact the MCAA offices to get the number.
And we’re wondering how long it will be before we adopt ideas like Apple-Pay or Kenya’s M-Pesa to have robust business models for routine (and cost effective) bank account to bank account money transfer.
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving but I’m not thankful for the time we will waste on monitoring this check fraud scam. All I can hope is that karma is at play and all things that go around, come around.
And last, I should put this in perspective to the horror in the world right now: it is trivial at best. To all the citizens of Paris, nous vous prions d’accepter nos sinceres condoleances.