A while back, I made a big mistake! And, to make matters worse, I had a bad feeling about it as soon as I did it. I had written a check to pay a bill. There was nothing unusual about that. Most of us do that on a regular basis. However, as I was working late that night and did not want to take it to the post office, I put the envelope containing the check along with a copy of the bill into the mailbox that sits on the edge of the street in front of our office. I also raised the little red flag on the mailbox to signify that there was outgoing mail inside of it.
A couple of days later, I was online checking our business bank account when I noticed something that was not quite right. I spotted a check that clearly had my signature on it and it was the right sequence number, but I did not recognize the name of the person it had been written to nor the amount on the check. Suddenly my heart sank. I realized that was the exact check I had put in the mailbox a couple of nights earlier. I then remember I had raised the red flag on the mailbox to let everyone know who was passing by our office that there was outgoing mail in the box.
During the night, someone had stolen the check, “washed it” and re-written it. The next morning, they walked into the bank, showed two forms of ID and cashed the check. They had even been asked to put their fingerprint on the check in order to cash it. They walked out of the bank with the cash in their hands! They basically robbed the bank with my check!
As soon as I discovered what had happened, I went to the bank to let them know that the check had been fraudulently written. Our business account was immediately closed. What a headache! I had to fill out an affidavit swearing that the person who had cashed the check was not the person it had been written to originally.
In talking to the banker about it, he assured me that this had become a huge problem for the banking industry. He said that they lost less than twenty thousand dollars in actual, physical armed robbery attempts last year, but lost close to two million dollars through fraudulent checks. I was amazed! I asked why people were not more easily caught – especially since they had to offer two forms of identification AND their fingerprint! The banker explained that the system was not designed to detect whether a person was a criminal or not; it only verified that their driver’s license and credit card were actually in their name. It is an ongoing problem that continues to work against banks on a daily basis.
But the point of this Tip is not about bank regulations! The purpose of this Tip is to make it clear that all of this could have been avoided if I had just listened to my internal warning system that told me it was the wrong thing to put the check in the mailbox in the first place. And, I certainly should not have raised the red flag to let everyone know there was outgoing mail in the box! I will never do that again!
It only takes a few extra minutes to go to the post office and drop off the mail. I have been doing that for years, but this one time I was in a hurry and I paid for it dearly! Thank goodness the bank was willing to reimburse me for the full amount of the check which had been fraudulently re-written, but what a headache! I had to open a new bank account and spend hours and hours straightening out online payments, checking account information and other related activities. If you have ever had this happen to you, then you know exactly what I am talking about – it is one grand mess!
In our lives, we sometimes make the mistake of tipping off others by saying too much or doing too much. Hopefully we are not surrounded by people who will take advantage of us, but it is not very wise to offer information unnecessarily, especially when you do not know who will take it and use it against you or to their own advantage.
This was a good lesson for me. I will be more careful in the future. And, I hope that by sharing what I have gone through, it will be a lesson that helps you as well.
Tip: Do not put money in the mailbox and raise the red flag!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm