WARREN, Mich. (WXYZ) — Brian Roland owns Honda Suzuki in Warren. Last week he says a man purchased an ATV with a $9,500 cashier’s check. Per protocol, they made sure it was water-marked and the routing number matched the bank. Everything was clear, but when they tried to cash it in, the check bounced.
“It was a real check that they got from a real bank and it was no way for anyone to know it was fake,” says Roland, who now knows he was the victim of check washing.
Check washing is a scam where a person chemically changes the dollar amount on a real cashier's check, making it nearly impossible to spot a fake.
“We got taken for 10-grand, how do you feel? It’s terrible...$10,000 could hurt a small business, I mean that could put someone out of business," says Roland.
The scheme seems to be spreading. Roland says another motorsport store owner was almost the victim of check washing, but he was alerted by a Zeal Credit Union representative before the transaction. Roland’s bounced check was also from Zeal.
"When I called them, the lady literally said we’ve had a rash of these coming out of this bank,” says Roland.
We reached out to Zeal and a spokesperson says they are aware of the scam, but would not specify how often their checks are being washed.
So how can a business, or person protect themselves?
“If you are able, make sure you have insurance,” says Ashley Gibbard with the Better Business Bureau.
Gibbard admits this scam is hard to spot, so insurance can help re-coop some of the lost money, she also suggests reporting the incident to the BBB and the Attorney General’s office so other businesses will know to be on high alert.
Warren Police tell 7 Action News that despite having the identity of the person who turned in the phony check, it could take a while before he is charged, adding it's likely and common for the person to try this scheme on several other businesses in the meantime.
However, if convicted they could face five years behind bars.