By Dan Dakin, St. Catharines Standard
It’s his first week on the job, but Brock University’s new head of finance has already had to deal with a money emergency involving corporate identity theft.
Brian Hutchings, the school’s vice-president for finance and administration, was alerted Wednesday that the school’s name was being used for a fraudulent cheque-cashing scheme.
Police say someone made fake cheques using the Brock logo and the number of its public bank account used by students to pay their tuition.
The person running the scam set up an ad on an online classified website looking for secret shoppers for a fake Brock-led customer service study of a major retail outlet and a money transfer service.
The victims were sent a counterfeit Brock cheque and then were asked to wire money to the alleged scam artist. In every case, however, the cheque bounced and the victims are left owing the bank the amount they sent.
“There are numerous scams like this out there,” said Niagara Regional Police Det. Sgt. Paul Spiridi. “Most involve the cashing of cheques for one reason or another and forwarding cash by money transfer to another party. Money transfer services are meant to transfer cash between people who know each other. They aren’t to be used as a means of commerce.”
Hutchings said Brock didn’t lose any money in the scam, but called police Wednesday as soon as they were alerted by the bank.
“The cheques were so poorly done the banks flagged it right away,” Hutchings said. “We feel bad for the (victims) because they lost money through this scam. That’s why we went public, to make sure no one else gets scammed.”
Hutchings said the school was already in the process of getting set up with payee match, a system where banks electronically match up any Brock cheques to one they know is legit before ever depositing the money.
“If they don’t match, the bank pulls it and says someone is trying to forge a cheque,” he said.
But that’s little consolation to the nearly 30 people police believe may have fallen victim to the scam. Fake cheques worth between $1,950 and $2,950 were found as far away as Calgary and Newfoundland.
Police say the fake cheques can be identified because they have the address of a bank in Toronto rather than one in St. Catharines.
Anyone who received or cashed one of the fake cheques is asked to call the NRP at 905-688-4111 and refer to incident number 12-99589.