Criminals targeting homeless population in new scam, banks warn


It’s a crime Doug La Tour has seen circulate for years in the banking industry, but he says the old scam is coming back with a new twist — criminals hiring homeless people to cash counterfeit checks.

“They recruit people with promise of easy money,” says La Tour, Vice President of Risk Management for Kemba Financial Credit Unions. “Desperate people do desperate things.”

With today’s desktop publishing, La Tour says it’s become quite easy for criminals to steal real checks, usually payroll, and digitally alter them to an amount under $1,000 that won’t raise red flags.

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“They don’t want to draw suspicion that an individual 23 years old is walking in with a $6,000 payroll check, it’s harder to explain,” he says.

According to a Kemba Financial Credit Union, there have been several arrests this summer related to homeless people entering branches cashing fake checks.

Police from Columbus and Gahanna arrested three individuals but not before they had already cashed several checks off the same stolen bank account at various branches in central Ohio.

La Tour says the ring leaders of this fraud usually find their accomplices near homeless shelters, soup kitchens or homeless camps. They then take their accomplices to hotels to clean up.

“Shave them and bathe them and take them to Walmart to get some clothes. If that’s what it takes to get the person presentable enough and believable enough to do the transaction,” La Tour said.

Each transaction will usually net the homeless person anywhere between $50-100. Once it’s done, they’ll return to the ringleader who is either in the parking lot waiting or a few blocks down the street.

CrimeTracker 10 spoke with the Ohio Credit Union League, which says tellers are trained to spot unusual transaction or other irregularities to help stop this crime.

Homeless advocates say they can’t do anything to stop their homeless clientele from accepting these scam jobs, but they try to offer resources, so the homeless population isn’t victimized any further.