Fake Checks Cheat East Texas Businesses

Tens of thousands of dollars in fake checks have been cashed in a wave of scams going on in East Texas. Some of the scams are even crossing international lines to take advantage of unsuspecting businesses.

"I was made aware of $6,000 worth of fake checks yesterday. In the past month, I probably have in excess of $50,000 worth," said Smith County Precinct 2 Constable Frank Creath. Constable Creath says the main scam involves a $2,000 check from a Canadian company. A letter sent with the check informs the person, they've won a lottery prize worth between $500,000 and $1-million. But to receive the prize, the letter asks people to cash the $2,000 check to cover fees and taxes and send the money back.

"They can't cash it at the bank because the banks are smart enough," said Creath. "If you go to a check-cashing place, you can cash it immediately. You're not out the money, the check-cashing business is."

Woody Weaver Pharmacy in Tyler had two such checks cashed. "These were people that had check cashing cards with me," said Woody Weaver, the pharmacy's owner. "These were people we knew for three or four years, so, don't know really where to go from there."

"Another one of the scams is, 'I'm out of the country. I don't have any identification on me. They won't cash my check. If I send it to you, I have one for $30,000, you can have 10 percent'," explained Creath.

Constable Creath says in another scam, a group has been cashing fake checks using names, numbers and addressed they grabbed from the phone book. Creath says they even make fake ID badges to match the checks. The checks run between $100 and $500.

Creath says one of the places the scam artists hit was the Country Meat Market in Tyler. "We try to OK most of our checks. We check them if it's a strange person who comes in," said Bud Morriss, the owner of Country Meat Market.

Constable Creath says merchants can put a stop to this wave of scams by being more vigilant. "If the merchants don't take the checks, then the scam artists are done," said Creath. Constable Creath says merchants should ask for more than one form of ID and verify the checks before they cash them. Also, he says if you receive a letter requesting that you cash a check and send money, contact authorities.

Oralia Ortega reporting, ortega@kltv.com