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Friday, 21 February 2014

Beware of Cheque scams, banks take responsibility

Senior citizens' cheques were intercepted and stampered with in separate incidents
PETALING JAYA: Two senior citizens nearly lost thousands of ringgit when their cheques were intercepted and tampered with in separate incidents.

In the first incident, a man who paid his utility bills through cheques sent via mail was shocked to find that the amount deducted from his account was 10 times what he had written on one of the cheques.

The foreign national, who only wanted to be known as Richard, owns a home in Malaysia.

He issued a cheque for RM200 to pay his electricity bill in November last year.

“When I received the bank statement, I was shocked to see that the amount deducted was more than RM2,000,” he said.

When the bank gave him a copy of the cheque that was deposited, he realised that the cheque had been replaced with a fake one.

“The cheque was a different one altogether and it was made to one Alan Lim @ Lim Sze Wei. Only the serial number was the same as the one I had issued and there was a forged version of my signature,” he said, adding that the design on the cheque was also different as he was still using an older version.

“I only issue cheques once or twice a month and have not changed the cheque book for years. The old version had the bank logo in the centre. The fake cheque had a completely different design without the logo in the centre,” said Richard, who is in his 80s. Richard then lodged a police report.

In the second case, an 87-year-old pensioner’s cheque was believed to be intercepted and the name of the payee and amount altered, said his daughter K.L. Wong.

She said her father routinely paid his insurance policy premiums by cheque sent via mail, which was what he did on Jan 31.

He wrote a cheque for RM169 payable to a bank’s card centre to pay for his policy and posted it the next day.

On Feb 13, Wong, who handles most her father’s accounts because he is wheelchair-bound, called the bank to check if the cheque had been cleared.

“I was told the card centre had not received it and there was no payment for the December and January premiums,” she said.

Upon checking the account balance, she discovered that RM4,600 had been deducted.

“At first, the bank thought the cheque might have been processed and paid to the wrong person.”

When she requested for a scanned image of the cheque from the bank, she discovered all the payment details had been altered.

“It was the same cheque but the original details were somehow ‘washed out’. Only my father’s signature remained. The cheque was altered to pay someone by the name of Lim Teng Yong,” she said, adding that the person was unknown to her father.

Wong said the bank admitted that it was not the first complaint it had received involving the same name being used to cash fraudulent cheques.

She added that the bank promised to investigate the matter and she lodged a police report the next day.

Richard and Wong’s father’s cheques were issued by the same bank. After internal investigations, the bank reimbursed both men.

“It was good the bank was willing to take responsibility but there is obviously a scam going on. The public should be aware of how cheques are being tampered with or forged,” said Wong.

The bank declined to comment.

- Contributed by Jastin Ahmad Tarmizi The Star/Asia News Network

1. Indus American Bank
2. Securing yourself against Fake Deposit Scams
3. CHCH – Your Superstation Buyer beware for fraudulent cheques

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