Smart About Money: Catching a Thief


One morning at the bank, we had a call from a customer who was on his online banking the night before and noticed a check he hadn’t written had just cleared his account.

He wondered if it was a bank error. And even though technology has made mistakes like that much more rare, they do happen. So that was the first thing we checked.

But no, it was not a bank error. In fact, the check that cleared was signed and it looked very close to the customer’s signature.

We let the customer know. He called us back to say he had just discovered two checks were missing from his checkbook — the one that had cleared and another one.

At that point we all knew something was wrong. Someone had stolen two checks from the back of the customer’s checkbook.

Thieves take checks from the back of a checkbook figuring the person won’t notice them missing, meaning they’ll usually have until the next statement — up to a month or more — to cash bad checks before the customer realizes something’s wrong and calls their bank.

But online banking has changed all that. Now that it’s much easier for people to monitor their accounts online, it’s much more common for customers to notice immediately if something weird is going on.

Since the customer let us know right away that another missing check was out there, we notified the Canton Police so they were aware there was a problem.

We checked our security camera system and saved the video evidence of a young man who had come in and cashed the first check. And of course, we put a stop payment on the second check.

Later that week, a young man pulled up at our drive-up teller window trying to cash the second check. We called the police and they were there immediately. They arrested him and took him away.

People get concerned about the security of online banking. They worry about high-tech hackers. But as we often see, it’s low-tech thieves using some of the oldest, lowest-tech tricks in the book who cause a lot of the trouble.

As it so happens, the young man was on a work crew at the customer’s house. It’s possible he saw our customer give his boss a check, so he knew where the checkbook was. The customer believed it’s possible the thief traced the signature from another document, which is why it was very similar.

(There’s a timeless lesson there. Be careful about letting strangers observe where you keep important financial papers. Don’t leave documents and valuables out in the open when strangers are around.)

Luckily, online banking let this customer be vigilant about their account. Which made all the difference.

Like all financial institutions, we are always upgrading our clearly obvious and not-so-obvious security systems to thwart people who want to perpetrate fraud, large or small, against our depositors or the bank.

And the Canton Police were amazing. They arrived within moments of our call and handled the situation quickly and professionally.

Except for the criminal, this was very much a “feel good” story. The customers, the bank, and the police all did their parts so that, once again, crime didn’t pay.

Nick Maffeo is the president and CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank in Canton. Have a question? Email to

Share This Post

Short URL:

avatar Posted by on Aug 14 2015. Filed under Featured Content, Opinion, Smart About Money. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Canton Citizen Absolute Landscaping

Search Archive

Search by Date
Search by Category
Search with Google
Log in | Copyright Canton Citizen 2011