SHAWNEE MISSION, Kan. -- The president of the Kansas Food Dealers Association here said a police training program in Overland Park, Kan., is helping food retailers there cut down on the cashing of forged checks.
"We're quite pleased that the police department took the initiative and was willing to do the training themselves," said Jim Sheehan, president of the Kansas Food Dealers Association here.
The Overland Park Police Department implemented the training program this spring. The program includes a $25 cash reward for each potential check forgery a cashier catches. It was instituted as an attempt to curb the high incidence of check fraud at grocery stores.
Police officials said supermarket retailers who are participating in the program include Hy-Vee, Des Moines, Iowa; Price Chopper, a division of Balls Food Stores, Kansas City; and SunFresh, located here, as well as other grocery store operators.
In 1999, the police department reported 476 forgeries at retail locations. In 2000, that number dropped to 393. Thus far this year, there have been 305 forged checks.
Cashiers are becoming much more aware of common red flags that could tip off a possible forgery, police said.
Sgt. Barbara Walk, who heads up the program, provided SN with the following tips for screening for possible check fraud. They include:
The shopper claims he left his driver's license in the car.
The shopper acts nervous or tries to hide from security cameras.
There is an out-of-town address on the check.
The signature on the check is misspelled.
The information on the check differs from the shopper's ID.
He covers the picture on the ID.
The check was signed before the customer entered the store.
"You can see cashiers nodding their heads, that they've taken these checks," Walk said.
Although the cashiers appreciate the cash reward, the program is primarily an eye-opener for them, according to Walk.
"They are realizing how prevalent check forgery is," she said.
Some grocers have changed policies as a result of the training, Walk said.
Before, shoppers could show any identification card, such as a student card, instead of a driver's license. Now, stores require a valid, signed identification with the person's photo and current address, she added.
One of the primary supermarket chains operating in the area said it will not accept counter or starter checks, according to Walk.
Walk explained that accepting checks from local banks only with current addresses and phone numbers is a good policy to have.
Police said that in the past customers from out-of-town would establish temporary addresses in the area from which they were forging checks.