Merchants warned to watch for bogus traveler’s checks

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

June 10, 2007 - A local law enforcement officer is warning area merchants to be watchful of fake traveler's checks.

And Cumby policeman Chris Hill warned that it will take a skillful eye to catch the bogus checks.

"These are real, real good lookalikes to an actual American Express traveler’s check," said Chris Hill with the Cumby Police Department. "The only thing different is the numbering sequence. If you didn't know that these were bad, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference."

Hill said one of the American Express counterfeits has been passed at a Cumby store. A person bought less than $100 in merchandise, offered the $500 traveler's check as payment and walked out with some $400 in cash back.

Hill also said they have a suspect in the case, and it is a local resident. He also said he's spoken with Hopkins County Sheriff's Investigator Lewis Tatum, who told Hill he'd also heard of the fake checks but had yet to receive any reports of anyone trying to fob them off.

"But I'm sure this isn't the only one circulating," said Hill.

His final words for anyone who is handed a traveler's check for a hefty amount: "Look twice."

American Express also offers this advice about its Travelers Cheques and Gift Cheques:

´┐ŻAlthough the vast majority of Travelers Cheques and Gift Cheques are authentic, there have been attempts to pass counterfeit Cheques. If you have any question regarding the validity of Cheques, call American Express at 1-800-525-7641.

You should take extra precautions by calling American Express if any of the following circumstances apply:

-- You are asked to cash or accept Travelers Cheques or Gift Cheques for payment but did not watch the Cheque holder countersign in the lower left-hand corner.

-- You are asked to cash or accept Cheques with no signatures.

-- You are asked to cash or accept Cheques in denominations of $500 or $1000. The maximum denomination of an authentic Gift Cheques is $100, so any Gift Cheque with a denomination of $500 or $1000 is counterfeit.

-- The Cheques are offered by someone you met on-line or from someone you know mostly through email communications.

-- The Cheques are presented for payment of an item sold on-line or for rent, especially if the value of the Cheques exceeds the original selling price or rental fee.

-- The Cheques are provided as pay for "work-at-home" employment, especially if you were hired online or over the phone.

´┐Żn/ The Cheques are described as funds that will be used to pay taxes or other fees in order to receive other funds, such as an inheritance or lottery winnings.

-- You received the Cheques by mail or express mail.

-- You are asked to wire, send or ship funds from cashed Cheques, especially if the return address is a large U.S. city or another country.

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