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Cheque worry

by Shawn Cumberbatch

centralbankbuildingA worrying number of fake Government cheques has emerged in Barbados, prompting commercial banks to raise the alarm, and the police to start an investigation.

And like President of The Barbados Bankers Association Horace Cobham, Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Lalu Vaswani called the issue “serious” and said the business community would be placed on full alert in light of the fraudulent activity.

The BBA revealed today that for the first time in living memory there was a major problem with counterfeit government cheques, something it corroborated after talks with state officials.

“A number of counterfeit Government of Barbados cheques have been in circulation and are being presented for payment at businesses around the island. The Treasury Department of the Government of Barbados have confirmed that these cheques are fraudulent,” the bankers said in their statement.

“Please note that to date, the cheques we have seen have borne the following stock numbers: A1718386 (and) A1718499. The … stock numbers may not however, be the only ones in circulation. The stock number is a number located at the right hand side of the cheque — above the payment amount and which starts with a letter.

“Please be reminded that commercial banks will not honour counterfeit cheques so customers are being urged to be vigilant and to exercise caution when dealing with these cheques. Customers may contact their financial institutions or the Treasury Department for guidance on the indicators required for verification of authentic Government of Barbados cheques,” the statement concluded.

Cobham told Barbados TODAY the banking community was worried and all Barbados should be too because of the negative implications.

He did not go into specifics, but said the problem emerged in recent weeks and evidence had been presented to the police.

“The police have been informed and involved, but they are doing their own thing, we are not privy to what they are doing, but certainly we shared the fraudulent cheques with them,” he said.

“It is an issue that we are trying to help the whole society manage because this is new and we believe it is something that all of Barbados needs to do their best to get stopped immediately.

“We should not allow a few to destroy the trust that has been developed over the years in Government payments and I am saying that anyone who becomes aware of fraudulent activity with these cheques need to alert the authorities early so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice,” he added.

When contacted Vaswani said: “I must thank you for bringing it to my attention. I was not aware and we will get in touch wit the Bankers Association immediately to get the relative information to alert the members through the normal channels.

“There is no history of having a general challenge with fraudulent cheques, I know from time to time you might hear of something, but this is a first that I am hearing about this issue. That’s serious.”

Cobham, who is a senior executive of RBC Royal Bank in Barbados, said while local banks had to deal with fraudulent cheques occasionally, “the difference here is that these are now government cheques and historically we have treated with government cheques in a way that did not create hardships for individuals who would have received those cheques”.

“And we are talking about people at the personal or the individual level so we typically would have handled them differently in a way that would have allowed people to have access to funds sooner and more directly,” he explained.

“So government cheques that are now being counterfeited presents a new problem and a new concern and the thing about it is that why we as commercial banks would do our part to minimise the risk to us, we also want to help people minimise the risk to them.”

He urged Barbadians to accept cheques generally and government cheques specifically “only from people that they know and that they are accustomed to accepting them from”.

“Historically in this market place people have had confidence that the cheques written by Government would be good, so the fact now that you have counterfeit cheques it doesn’t speak to the validity or the confidence in government being able to pay, but the validity of the instrument itself.”

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