Senior Citizens hit by check fraud

Criminals who forged fraudulent checks appearing to be from Homer Senior Citizens Inc. pushed through $10,000 in checks before the nonprofit corporation closed its account. Six checks went through, and the senior center knows of at least 25 fraudulent checks people tried to cash or use to buy items on Craig’s List, said Homer Senior Citizens executive director Keren Kelly. Homer Senior Citizens was not held liable for the checks and did not lose money, she said.

Kelly and her staff noticed the fraudulent checks on Jan. 9 as part of a daily practice of reviewing accounts. The checks had the Homer Senior Citizens address, account information and Kelly’s name and that of her treasurer. Kelly had reports of fake checks appearing in Tennessee, Georgia, California, Florida and even the United Kingdom. One woman called Kelly after a man tried to buy a ring she advertised on Craig’s List, an online ad service. The buyer sent a check from Homer Senior Citizens but wanted the ring sent to California. People have made similar calls.

Homer Senior Citizens’ bank, Alaska USA Credit Union, stopped the account and put a hold on all checks on its account. Legitimate checks will be honored, but go through a special fraud unit first. Dan McCue, senior vice-president for corporate administration at Alaska USA, said check fraud is common. People find checks in trash and duplicate them using account information. What Kelly did by checking accounts frequently is the best approach, he said.

“Be alert to things that seem unusual or suspicious,” McCue said.