HOUSTON, Nov. 12,1997 - Shoppers are making a list and checking it twice, but some will be naughty and some will be nice. Check fraud artists will be shopping with the rest of American consumers this holiday season, and some retailers are far more vulnerable to fraud than others, according to data compiled in a new point-of-sale check fraud index by TeleCheck Services, Inc., the world's leading check acceptance company. Wine liquor, jewelry, apparel and department/discount stores are more than 10 times as likely to be hit, by check fraud as the least affected businesses, which include those in the healthcare, wholesale commercial, and automotive parts service industries.
Overall, incidents of check fraud rose more than 11 percent over the
past year, according to TeleCheck's data,
which are segmented according to Standard Industry Code (SIC) and drawn from TeleCheck's 167,000 subscriber
locations, covering a broad cross-section of industries and geographic areas. Check losses cost retailers more
than $12 billion annually; about half is directly attributed to fraud.
"We have long known through our efforts to manage check fraud risks
that the impact of check fraud is not
distributed equally, with some businesses far more vulnerable than others," said Randy Templeton, senior vice
president of Strategic Marketing Development at TeleCheck. "Places that sell products that can easily be resold
by fraud artists are generally more at risk, as are check cashing services at grocery stores and hotels, as well as
The highest check fraud, not surprisingly, occurs in the gaming industry.
Using TeleCheck's check fraud index,
which defines the national check fraud average as 100 points, gaining fraud scores a staggering 322, or 222 points
above the national check fraud average. The risk for check fraud is particularly high because checks are
exchanged for cash money that goes back onto the casino floor rather than for purchase of a product or service.
Check fraud at wine liquor stores, with an index of 215, is 135 points above the national average, followed by
jewelry stores at 230 (130 points above average), and apparel stores at 200 (100 points above average). Other
high-incidence categories include department/discount stores at 87 points above the national average;
electronics stores, 65 points above average; retail optical services, 57 points above average; and gift specialty at
43 points above average.
TeleCheck's index is based on check transactions in which an intent
to defraud is evident, such as checks drawn
on closed accounts; checks lost, stolen or forged; fraudulently created checks or checking accounts; unable-to-
locate accounts and unauthorized or irregular signatures. The index does not include insufficient funds checks
resulting from consumer error or temporary financial setbacks.
"While TeleCheck stops about one half of fraud in real time at the point-of-sale,
meaning those checks are not
accepted, some types of fraud are difficult or impossible to detect, such as forged checks presented with fraudulent identification," Templeton explained.
Check fraud has been on the rise as modern technology, including the
use of personal computers, laser printers
and sophisticated copiers, has made it easier to create fraudulent checks. Fraud artists also use such low-tech
methods as check washing, in which checks are washed in a chemical solution to erase signature lines or dollar
amounts on stolen or fraudulently obtained checks. Other fraud trends include altering the MICR line (the line at
the bottom of a check that contains the account number and Federal Reserve and bank codes). Fraudulent new
accounts at financial institutions, particularly for accounts opened by mail, phone or computer, are also on the
According to The Nilson Report, the leading news and advisory service
for payment services executives, 32
percent of check fraud is attributed to accounts closed and kiting, 27 percent is counterfeit checks, 24 percent is
forgery, 12 percent is bankruptcy and 5 percent is miscellaneous.
Industries new the national average for check fraud include grocery
and convenience stores at 130,(30 points
above average), mid sporting goods and hospitality entertainment, both of which scored a rating of 126, (26
points above average).
For grocery and convenience stores, check fraud comes primarily from
check cashing. Although check cashing
accounts for only 5 to 10 percent of a grocer's check activity, it can represent about half of a supermarket's check
loss. Losses from check cashing have been on the rise, in part because of new technologies available today that
enable fraud artists to more easily counterfeit payroll checks.
Hospitality entertainment includes restaurants and taverns, hotels,
amusement parks, recreation services and
professional sports clubs. Like supermarkets, hotels and motels are more at risk for check fraud because of check
cashing courtesies offered on-site.
Other businesses with an about-average rate of check fraud include music/video
stores (13 points above
average), drug stores (9 points above average), and mail order COD (4 points above average). Home furnishings,
with an index of 96, is 4 points below average and general services, with an index of 78, is 22 points below
average. General services includes categories such as transportation (airlines, cruise lines, limos), moving
storage, travel agencies, communication services (paging cellular, cable TV, broadcasting), postal services,
dwelling leases, and cleaning laundry.
Least impacted by check fraud are the healthcare and wholesale commercial industries, each with an index ranking of 22, or 78 points below the national average. The healthcare category includes physicians, dentists, optometrists, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and general health services. The wholesale commercial industry is composed of wholesale building contractors, construction materials, industrial equipment, and other business-to-business related transactions.
Other categories that are below average on the check fraud index are
computer stores, with an index of 43, (57
points below average); auto dealers at 48 (52 points below average); and auto parts service and building materials
supplies, each 48 points below average with an index rating of 52.
With most purchases at computer stores and building materials supply
stores used in homes or businesses, these
categories are less susceptible to fraud, with the exception of certain items such as tools and small machinery,
which can easily be resold by fraud artists.
The TeleCheck system provides check acceptance and check guarantee services,
collection services, and new
account screening to more than 167,000 retail, financial institution, travel, gaming and association clients through
a sales and service network with offices in more than 90 cities in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia
and New Zealand. In 1996, TeleCheck authorized over $40.2 billion in checks and processed more than 645 million
check inquiries. TeleCheck is a subsidiary of First Data Corporation (NYSE: FDC). For more information about
TeleCheck and its products and services, visit the Internet site at http://www.telecheck.com .
Founded in 1992, Hackensack, 141-based First Data Corporation is a global
leader in payment systems, electronic
commerce and information management products and services. First Data and its principal operating units
process the information that allows millions of consumers to pay for goods or services by credit, debit or smart
card at the point of sale or over the Internet; by check, or wire money -- seamlessly and effortlessly. For more
information about First Data, visit us on the Internet at http://www.firstdatacorp.com .