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Stolen checks cause headaches for county residents, businesses

WEDOWEE — Some businesses and customers in east Alabama are dealing with the fallout after they say several checks sent through the United States Postal Service (USPS) were stolen and cashed by scammers.

Terry Wiley, Jr., the general manager of Wedowee Building Supply, said the business has had about five customers impacted, although he said other businesses in the area are also reporting stolen checks. Wiley said Wedowee Building Supply has been working with the postal service to find out what happened.

The checks were reported stolen in October and November. The customers wrote their checks and sent them from their mailboxes, not from drop-off boxes, at the post office. The customers then realized their bills hadn’t been marked as paid. Wiley said someone likely intercepted the checks before they got to the businesses, and they were cashed by someone using a mobile deposit system and a fake endorsement signature.

“They [the customers] said the bank shows that check has already been cashed and that you’ve gotten your money,” Wiley explained. “Well, we never received the checks, and that’s where we started the process of having them call their banks.”

The customers called their banks and received copies of the cashed checks, showing the fake endorsements.

“I think there were three or four different names that the checks were endorsed to,” Wiley added. “But they were all electronic endorsements.”

Wedowee Building Supply canceled late fees for the payments. However, customers are now dealing with protecting their bank accounts.

“I would tell them if they can come in and make a payment, that’s the best way to go,” said Wiley. “When you see the amount of trouble the customers have to go through to change their accounts and do everything over again because now that those checks have been compromised, those people have their routing address, they have their account number. It’s troublesome.”

Banking experts advise people who have had their accounts compromised close the accounts and start a new one. Banks in Alabama and Georgia have agreed to recoup the money for the customers impacted by this recent string of thefts.

Fraudsters can take over entire bank accounts and make purchases from victims. With bank information, they can destroy a person’s credit. Experts recommend victims report fraud immediately to the bank, local law enforcement, and online to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.identitytheft.gov. Scammers can use the information to open fake accounts and make fraudulent charges, so it is important for compromised accounts to be closed as soon as possible.

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