Cheques pose risk, businesses warned

By Kristin Edge

In a world in which electronic transactions have become the preferred way of paying for goods and services, police have issued a warning to businesses to be cautious about accepting cheques that could be fraudulent.

A Northland woman has been arrested after allegedly buying thousands of dollars' worth of electrical goods and paying for hotel accommodation with cheques drawn on an account that had been closed for about three years.

Whangarei police Constable Andrew Ivey said five cheques had been used in Northland and the Bay of Plenty but more may have been handed over to unsuspecting businesses.

"It really doesn't matter what precautions people take, cheques are so open to abuse," Mr Ivey said.

If accepting cheques, businesses should only take them from longstanding customers. Police believe more Northland businesses and even some in Auckland may be be affected. Mr Ivey said the cheques were normally returned with a note saying the account had been closed.

If anyone thought they had accepted one of the fraudulent cheques from the woman they should contact police.

The first of the cheques was presented in September and they continued to show up through last month.

A Whangarei woman, 28, faces five charges of using a document for a pecuniary advantage. She was to appear in the Whangarei District Court on Wednesday but failed to do so, and a warrant is out for her arrest.

Banking Ombudsman Deborah Battell said the trend in New Zealand was for people increasingly to use electronic banking and many retailers were reluctant to accept cheques.

Mrs Battell said the police warning for retailers was timely as banks did not have to honour dodgy cheques that were accepted.

"You always take on a bit of a risk when you accept a cheque.

"When retailers do, they need to be very cautious and make sure that the person is who they say they are and that they can honour the cheque. From our experience, retailers prefer other methods of payment because of the risks associated with cheques."

- Northern Advocate

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