How Check Fraudsters Tamper With Success

woman looking at financial docuents with magnifying glass

In the third part of Dawn Brolin’s Fraudcast with CPA Stephen King of client accounting services firm GrowthForce, they talked about check tampering, which specifically has to do with employees who steal.

During the Fraudcast, Steve told the story of a large landscaping company where the trusted office manager was taking checks that were sent to the landscaper, slyly endorsing them to herself and depositing the money into her personal account. The FBI was no help and the bank’s liability was limited, due largely in part to dealing with billions of digital transactions on a regular basis alongside a post-9/11 change in security. The takeaway: responsibility falls on you when you get stolen from and the results are messy.

I had asked: “when was the last time you went to the bank and they eyed your signature?” I also questioned when they ensured the payment was made out to you?

As Steve pointed out, the transactions are digital and nobody is double-checking. When it comes to check tampering, I think of going to the grocery store and swiping a card or inserting a chip for a purchase.

When we sign for it, how many of us try to perfectly duplicate our real handwriting? I can’t sign the same digitally as I do on paper. How would the teller know? The people controlling the payments are the scariest because of this freedom.

As we covered in the last Fraudcast, Steve’s book The CEO’s Guide to Reducing Fraud relies heavily on the ACFE Report to the Nations, a global study on occupational fraud (arguably the greatest publication I’ve ever read) that you can view on the Fight Against Fraud site. Familiar with the stats in the report, Steve reminded us that the average thief starts small, so nobody catches them right away. They think of the stolen money as a loan that they will pay back eventually, they make excuses and the amount ultimately grows over time.

The average monetary loss from check tampering is $158,000 and it typically takes 18 months to catch the perpetrator. On page 27 in The CEO’s Guide, Steve offers preventative measures to protect yourself from this kind of fraud.

During the Fraudcast, he advocated for automating the billing process online through automated services such as The cost to pay a bill was $12 prior to automating and went down to $1.66 after. Steve also reiterated the importance of separating employee duties.

Typically, the person who writes a check should not be the person who reconciles the bank account. And, as I said before, have these honest conversations with your clients; scare them if you need to. Especially during tax season, we have the power to assist them in understanding the severity of scammers.

Finally, Steve called attention to something Frank Abagnale addressed in a webinar with Joe Woodard: Going to trial to win a fraud case is an expensive task and he suggested to send the fraudster a 1099 form. The money that has been stolen is taxable income and they can deal with you or the IRS. Other useful references for how to handle these situations, like webinars and Steve’s eBook, can be found on

Keep a look out for upcoming Fraudcasts on the Fight Against Fraud site.

About Dawn W. Brolin, CPA, CFE

Dawn W. Brolin

Dawn is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and CEO of Powerful Accounting, LLC.  Powerful Accounting is a nationally recognized accounting, tax, forensic and fraud, IRS and State Agency audit professionals as well as a QuickBooks consulting firm. Recently, Powerful Accounting has partnered with Anderson, Brolin & Coba CPAs, LLC – a powerhouse tax preparation, consulting and wealth management firm, where Dawn is a partner.  Dawn also founded, Your Turn, LLC, which specializes in application consulting and implementation for small businesses.

Dawn’s list of professional accomplishments is extensive and includes speaking and consulting for prestigious companies such as Intuit, TSheets by Intuit, Finagraph, SmartVault, Skyline Cloud Services, Mike Michalowicz, Tory Johnson, MSNBC, SEEMA, AbacusNext, The Woodard Group, and many more.  Named “Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Accounting” 2012-2017 by CPA Practice Advisor, a “Top 10 Managing Partner Elite – Great Accounting Firm Leader” in 2017 by Accounting Today, and selected as a “Top 40 Under 40” by CPA Technology Magazine in 2009. Dawn continues to pursue excellence with the support of her amazing Team at Powerful Accounting. 

Dawn has been featured on MSNBC “Your Business” and has spoken at Intuit’s QuickBooks Connect, Scaling New Heights, Sleeter Conference, TD Bank North locations, Tory Johnson’s Small Business Spark and Hustle Tour, Live Your Legacy Summit, and many more.  Her commitment to continuing education motivates her to teach regularly to bring new techniques and processes to the accounting community.

Professionals seek out Dawn W. Brolin, CPA, CFE and her educational keynotes, webinars and articles.  They enjoy her energetic and humorous delivery as well as the action ability and depth of her content. 

Video of Dawn W. Brolin, CPA, CFE is available on YouTube:



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