SYLVESTER, GA (WALB) –Fake payroll checks are floating around South Georgia. Investigators say the checks look real, but they're not.
That's why Investigators are asking merchants who cash payroll checks to be on the lookout because if you are not careful you could be the next victim.
This week Investigators arrested Michael Paul Hines in Albany. He had a fake payroll checks in his possession. Investigators in Albany and Terrell counties had similar warrants out for Hines as well, but investigators do not think he is the only one involved in this counterfeit ring. They think someone in the Albany area is making these checks on their home computer, while other people try and cash them.
To the naked eye, the check looks real. It has a legitimate company name at the top, with the correct address and even a real bank. "You can't tell just by looking at it, the routing number is an authentic number of that bank," said Investigator Washington in Sylvester.
But investigators say there is one major problem with the check. The account doesn't exist. "This is not Parish farms check or account or bank that they use but all the other information here is correct including the address," said Washington.
Investigators believe there are several fake payroll checks similar to this one making the way around the Sylvester and possibly Albany area. "They are more or less ripping off our merchants and we want to put a stop to that," said Washington.
He says the people trying to cash these checks are hitting convenience stores or grocery stores in rural areas after normal banking hours. "If you are cashing these checks on the weekends or after hours there is no way you are going to know this check is fraudulent until the next day," said Washington.
And the only way a merchant can tell if a payroll check is fake, is by contacting the bank and confirming the account. "They are real companies, they are printing these things up without the permission of these companies," said Washington.
The manager of Snipes Piggly Wiggly says over the years he's dealt with a fair share of fake payroll checks. "We have lost money over the years," said Craig Lawson, Store Manager.
In fact, he think his store employees may have came across some last night. "Something didn't look right to them and they made a copy of the check and didn't cash it," said Lawson.
So he's come up with a simple way of dealing with the problem."To be honest with you, if you wont take em home for supper with you, you better not cash it," said Lawson.
He also urges his employees to check out Id and if they suspect anything call him before cashing.
Investigators say if someone comes into your store with a payroll check there are things you should do before cashing it. For one, contact the bank and if the bank confirms the account does not exist call law enforcement immediately preferably while that person is still in your store. If you think you may have cashed a fake payroll check, contact Sylvester Police right away.
Also, when you take ID, make sure it is a valid ID with a picture of the person standing in front of you. Its also a good idea, to ask for two forms of ID before cashing that check.