GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A Kent County woman is racing to close her elderly father's bank account to stay ahead of some crooks who wrote bogus checks on his account. And they've done it many other times, according to the Better Business Bureau.
Judy Cisler has been handling her 87-year-old father's bank account for several years and discovered a $30 she didn't write.
The check in question looks like it could have come from her father's check book. The name, address and phone number are correct. But the check is bogus.
"They're scamming an 87-year-old senior citizen who doesn't even have access to this checking account," Cisler said.
She missed the first three checks, each of which was for $30. They weren't for enough money to immediately attract her attention.
"These are apparently very bad people," Phil Catlett, president of the BBB of Western Michigan, said.
And those "bad people" are hiding behind a corporate identity. The bogus checks written on Cisler's father's account were payable to Fastloan4me. It's supposedly a Nevada company with a website that says it helps people arrange payday loans.
The BBB in Reno has received more than 400 complaints about the company similar to Cisler's.
"We really don't know where they are. We don't know who they are and every time we request information, they don't respond. They just return it back to the Better Business Bureau," Catlett said.
Target 8 investigators tried ask the company if it was writing forged checks, but an email to its support department bounced back "address rejected." No one picked up when trying the phone number listed online.
"You can just make up a check on your computer and make it look legit and it gets paid. Where's the protection?" wondered Cisler.
Fifth Third Bank says once crooks get bank account information, the only defense is closing the account because they will simply keep creating bogus identities to raid it. That's what the identity thieves in Nevada have been doing, the BBB said.
The local account information appears to be several years old because some of the check details have changed, but it's a mystery how they got it in the first place.
"If they have my information, if they have your information, it's for sale out there in a black market, so to speak," Catlett said.
Cisler is not looking forward to closing her dad's bank account and dealing with pension funds and the Social Security Administration to try to keep automatic payments coming.
"It's frustrating because it's not so easy to just close a checking account," Cisler said. "Easy answer. Not so easy to execute."
Both the BBB and the bank say the only real protection against this kind of identity theft is to keep personal information closely guarded, even shredding old checks and statements before tossing them. Account information is made available whenever a check is used as payment. You can't control who sees it or keep someone from grabbing it.
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