The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

College caught in check scam across nation

By Shelly Williams/editor-in-chief

For the past two years, $175,000 in fraudulent checks bearing TCC’s name have been sent across the nation.

Within one day, the school has gathered $39,000 of the bogus checks, said associate vice chancellor of finance Nancy Chang.

The authentic-looking checks are sent to U.S. residents — from New York, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Arizona, California and one in southern Texas — in envelopes with no return address with an estimated worth of $3,300 each.

Unlike legitimate, checks and the bogus checks have no TCC logo though the check is on actual check stock paper.

Diane Noftz of Norwalk, Ohio, received one of the checks but had no ties to TCC. She said she hadn’t heard of the college until she looked it up online to find out more about the check.

“I got the check in the mail, and it looked like a real check. But my husband told me to call the college and find out why I was getting it,” she said. “When I called, they put me through to someone in accounting, and he said it was a scam that was going on.”

She said the check came as a shock and that the college told her not to cash the check and asked her to send the bogus check back to the college.

“They said that they had the police working on it and that they were getting the FBI involved in it,” she said. “They said that it had been going on in nine different states.”

Chang said though these checks are being sent out, no college funds have been lost.

“The college won’t be losing any money because of the way we set up the account system,” she said. “I’ve talked to the bank. I’ve talked to the police. But there is nothing we can do until the amount [of fake checks] reaches $200,000. Until then, the FBI will not interfere.

“Today, we had two more checks come in,” she said on April 6. “Every day, we have almost two or more come in. Every check is about $3,300.”

TCC Police Cpl. Lavern James, who runs the investigation, said the scam was done by someone over the Internet using different ways to gather personal information, like asking people to become mystery shoppers.

“They say, ‘Here’s a check. Go cash it by this date and give the rest of the money back to this,’” he said. “Or they say something like, ‘To become my personal assistant, I need you to take care of these funds. Take your paycheck out of this and transfer it to here.’”

James said only a little less than half of the victims receiving the fake checks have cashed them.

But officers do not know who is behind the scam, only that someone went in and posted job listings on bigger Web sites.

“The actual loss of the individuals has been between $2,950 and $3,300, which is what the average amount of the checks have been written for,” he said.

TCC Police Chief Frank Buchanan said the scam is similar to “the standard scams that are all over the country,” but the difference is this scam has TCC’s name on it.

“There’s really nothing we can do, so we’ve turned it over to the FBI, and we report everything to them,” he said. “But to be honest, white collar crime has got to be so much money that has to be involved before they can touch it. But we’ve done due diligence, and we’ve done everything that we can do with it.”

FBI spokesman, Mark White department could not confirm any investigation. He said the only way to do that would be after a public act, such as an arrest or a warrant served.

“It’s like a common check cash scam,” he said. “They steal the check account number, make counterfeit checks, and then people cash the check, and it bounces around between the bank and the sender. It’s basically an identity theft case. They’ve gotten the company name and routing number.”

White said that most check scam investigations are done by the U.S. Secret Service. However, the Secret Service was not available for comment.

White said the FBI often has limited resources to devote to such cases, so thresholds must be met before beginning an investigation.

“Most of the time, if the monetary loss is low, as it sounds in this instance, then the police will refer it to their district attorney,” he said.

Noftz, Buchanan, James and White said if anyone else receives the checks, the best thing anyone can do is not cash them.

“Keep in mind, you don’t get anything for free in this world, and that’s what this scam is about,” White said.

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