Cloned Cheque Fraudsters Milking Local Banks

Latest statistics from Ghana’s Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) have revealed that the activities of cloned cheque fraudsters in the country’s banks are on the rise.

This follows a revelation by the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of FIC Ghana, Philip Danso that, the Centre received reports on 26 cloned cheques worth GH¢923,883.86 presented at various commercial banks in the country in 2014.

Eight out of the 26 cloned cheques, according to him, with face value of GH¢88,623.54, were successfully drawn whilst the remaining 18 with face value of GH¢835,260.32 were returned unpaid.

Participants who were appalled at the figures thrown at them at the last day of a two-day training workshop on: ‘Improving Knowledge Base for Effective Financial and Economic Reporting’ held in Prampram, in the Greater Accra Region, did not hesitate to ask for 2013 and 2015 figures.

But Mr. Danso told the participants, who were journalists from the various media organisations that, the 2013 figures were similar to that of the 2014, while the 2015 data were yet to be out.

Fortunately, most of the 26 cloned cheque cases received by the FIC last year could not go through while other suspects were apprehended, he told The Chronicle, after the workshop.

Mr. Danso explained that thieves use printers, copiers and newest software to make clone cheques with high resemblance to the original ones. Many times these are hard to be recognised as false cheques even by experts.

Genesis of cloned cheques and impacts on economy

Tracing the origin of cloned cheques fraud, the Deputy CEO of the FIC stated: “Cloned cheques have been with us since the introduction of cheques. These cloned cheques were used to defraud public institutions, companies and wealthy individuals, among others.”

Lamenting that the advent of new technologies has added to the spread of cheque cloning  fraud with all manner of printers, software and other technologies being used to make cheques that look so perfect that,  it would take experts a lot of laboratory analysis before the forgery could be established.

Mr. Danso noted that cheques forgery (cloning) has attained a worrisome level in the local and international financial landscape, going by its negative impact on Ghana’s economy and the entire global economy.

The cloned cheques menace could stop foreign investors from investing in an economy and this would have a significant effect on job creation, thereby leading to massive unemployment, according to him.

Besides, the reputation of the citizens, businesses and the government is usually dent by the menace, while businesses in severe cloned cheques economies also suffer from the brunt.

Efforts to tackle cheques forgery

Mr. Danso explained that as part of efforts to tackle the problem of cheque forgery, the FIC has organised a number of workshops to highlight this disturbing phenomenon and proffer ways of curbing the practice.

Also, the Centre has collaborated with the Bank of Ghana, Ghana Police Service, banks and printing houses in the country to address the cheque cloning in West Africa’s second largest economy.

Mr. Danso used the occasion to urge that in a period where banks are facing stiff competition and are looking for ways to reduce cost, they cannot afford to lose millions of Cedis to cheque cloning, hence it is advisable for the banks to deploy technologies to arrest the menace.

The Executive Director of the Journalists for Business Advocacy (JBA), Suleiman Mustapha, whose association organised the workshop, which was sponsored by Ecobank-Ghana, called on journalists in the country to show greater interest in the coverage of cheques forgery.

This, he believes, will help expose the citizens to the economic and social effects of cloned cheques and other financial crimes in the country.

 Instructively, the JBA was established out of GJA’s special two-year project dubbed: “Using the Media to Strengthen Business Advocacy”.

The project, co-facilitated by KAB Consult, and sponsored by the Business Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund, begun in 2006, under the theme: “Using the Media to Promote Small-Scale Business Concerns.”

Under the project, a core team of journalists undertook capacity development in business advocacy to create a multimedia platform to discuss the concerns of business, particularly SMEs. In Ghana the SMEs account for 90 per cent of enterprises of the economy, contributing about 60 per cent of employment and about six per cent to GDP.

While the Financial Intelligence Centre was established in accordance with section 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2008 (Act 749) as amended- as a body corporate with perpetual succession mandated by section 5 of the law to; assist in the identification of proceeds of unlawful activity and assist in the combat of Money Laundering (ML) activities, financing of terrorism, financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and any other transnational organised crime.

The Centre also makes information available to investigating authorities, the intelligence agencies and the revenue agencies to facilitate the administration and enforcement of the laws of the Republic; and exchanges information with similar bodies in other countries as regards ML activities, financing of terrorism, financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and any other transnational organised crime.