BAKER, La. (WAFB) - Officials with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are sounding the alarm, warning consumers to be careful when writing checks after a mother-daughter duo was arrested in Baker on felony fraud charges.
It’s not exactly how an elderly couple in Baker wanted to spend their holiday, but somehow, thieves were able to take advantage of them, allegedly cleaning out their bank account to the tune of $2,500 right before Thanksgiving. The 9News Investigators were able to get copies of the fake checks, written at the Walmart in Baker, plus two electronic charges which show where those behind the crime were quite busy.
The victims spoke with WAFB’s Scottie Hunter under the condition that their identities be protected to prevent further harm.
“When I opened our online account, there was a huge overdraft,” the wife said. “There were two checks that were written with only my bank account number and my routing number. There was no information on the checks that identified me personally. The checks weren’t even signed.”
Once those bogus checks were cut, the couple says their finances were sent up in flames and even their credit score suffered.
“It was really very horrifying,” the wife added. “It left us with a huge deficit because the checks that we had written our own bills on were bouncing and were coming back and not being paid.”
They say the worst part of the ordeal is their main checking account is linked to their savings account, so as that money started flooding out, their other funds started to get drained. The husband and wife remember buying a TV at a different Walmart days before their information was swiped. Now, they want to find out how they were targeted.
“The only place we wrote a check like that was Walmart, then all of a sudden, it was off to the races,” the husband said.
Carmen Million, president of the BBB of South Central Louisiana, tells WAFB anyone who uses checks is potentially at risk. If consumers carry around that form of payment, she warns they’re gambling with their personal information.
“Anybody can duplicate a check. It’s easy,” Million said. ”When you write a check, all of your information is on there and so it makes you an easy target and it’s an easy opportunity for fraud to happen.”
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Million if checks are still a safe form of payment.
“Checks are not as safe as they were in the past. In the past, banks were the only ones that had access to your account number. That’s no longer the case,” Million responded. “It’s no longer as safe as it was in the past and the few people that use checks, we definitely advise caution.”
After seeing herself on WAFB, the Baker Police Department says Carla Banks, 54, turned herself in to authorities in January.
Arrest records show she was charged with access device fraud, forgery, and identity theft. Her 30-year-old daughter, Brittany Banks, was arrested the first week of February. She faces the same charges as her mother, but she was also hit with an additional fugitive from justice charge.
Even with those arrests, the Baker Police Department is still working to answer the biggest question that remains unanswered: how did this happen? When WAFB’s Scottie Hunter posed the question to experts at the BBB, they said it could have happened in a variety of ways.
“It could very well be a dishonest employee who got the information and scanned it or it could very well be just somebody leaning over them getting the information. Anything’s possible,” said Million.
As scammers lurk out there looking to separate consumers from their money, Million suggests folks use a credit card for major purchases and more importantly, always keep track of their accounts.
“There are a lot of things that can happen, but you have to be your own best protector,” said Million.
The Baker police chief tells WAFB the case is still under investigation.