A REMANUFACTURER PREVENTS FRAUD
A REMANUFACTURER PREVENTS FRAUD
2004-02-05 at 10:33:00 am #4963
Remanufacturer Prevents Check Fraud; Helps Bring Check Counterfeiter to Justice
A Washington state remanufacturer recently helped bring an alleged counterfeiter to justice after foiling his attempt to purchase materials used in making counterfeit checks. Some quick thinking on the part of remanufacturer Robert Parker, president of The Printer People in Bremerton, helped lead police to arrest 35-year-old Matthew John Croasdill, Jan. 13, 2003 on counterfeiting-related charges.
Parker was working behind the counter of his business on Jan. 12 when Croasdill allegedly approached him with a very unusual product purchase in mind. As Parker explained, the then unidentified man said he wanted to print checks for his small business and inquired about what equipment he would need for the task. During what became a half-hour conversation, the man inquired about Magnetic Image Character Recognition (MICR) toner.
MICR toner is used to print both checking account and routing numbers on checks, and contains magnetic properties that allow the checks to be read at point-of-sale check scanners at many businesses. The man also inquired about hot press fiber paper with color threading embedded in it, which Parker described as a very technical way to ask for high-end check stock.
Parker said the inquiry about MICR toner and hot press fiber paper seemed suspicious, as a novice check printer wouldn’t have enough technical knowledge to ask for or even have a use for such items. MICR toner cartridges are also very expensive and typically used only by larger companies that print numerous checks. According to Parker, a MICR toner cartridge costs around $250 while regular toner cartridges cost between $80-$90.
After some discussion, the would-be customer insisted that he wanted to purchase a MICR toner cartridge, which continued to raise red flags in Parker’s mind. The man matched the description of one of three individuals who purchased a MICR toner cartridge from the business, with a counterfeit check, in September 2003. Parker said he was initially suspicious of the man as he told the same story and used the same key phrases as the individuals in September had.
After being informed by Parker that he could write a check for the toner cartridge if he showed proper Washington State ID, the man said he would pay in cash and asked to go to the restroom before the transaction could be completed. While the man was in the restroom, Parker walked outside and wrote down the license plate number on his vehicle.
In an effort to find out who his customer actually was, Parker told the man that the company has taken a corporate stance of knowing where MICR is going because of the ease of use for check fraud, and insisted on seeing ID for the purchase. Parker’s insistence on identification only seemed to anger the man, who very quickly stormed out of the business after refusing to show any ID.
As the incident seemed highly suspicious to Parker, he called the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and told them what happened as well as provided the office with the man’s license plate number.
Croasdill, who was already the subject of an ongoing investigation into related offenses, was arrested the day after the incident and is currently lodged at the Kitsap County jail. He is being held on $75,000 bond on felony forgery, identity theft and possessing stolen property 2 charges. Possessing stolen property 2 is a charge for using a counterfeit check to purchase items that are then considered stolen.
A printer with an installed MICR toner cartridge, coupled with a computer running check printing software that can be purchased cheaply at many office supply stores are the primary tools of the sophisticated check counterfeiter. Parker also warned that check counterfeiters often steal checks out of their intended victim’s mailboxes. Each check is imprinted with both an account number and routing number giving the counterfeiter the means of making a check that looks legitimate and fools check scanners.
Parker highly recommends anyone sending a check through the mail to drop off such mail in a locked mailbox or at a U.S. Postal Service branch location. Parker also advises any remanufacturers dealing in MICR to ask for ID from anyone coming to them to purchase the expensive toner. “When you’re doing MICR, there are businesses that need MICR and there are businesses that have no reason to have MICR,” Parker said. “Know your MICR customer.”
Most businesses would not send someone out to purchase MICR cartridges as they are often delivered on-site. Parker and other remanufacturers in Kitsap have agreed to insist on photo ID for any future MICR purchases in shop.