November 2, 2006

For information, contact

Stephen Hudson
Phone: 803.931.1332

Growing cases of fraud costs consumers and banks millions each year

COLUMBIA, S.C., November 2, 2006 — It typically starts with an e-mail, letter or phone call. Someone offers to buy something you advertised and the payment is more than the agreed upon price. You receive a notice in the mail that you’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes. Or, that work-at-home job offer involves depositing checks or accepting wires into a personal checking account then wiring funds to another location. Whatever the pitch, be alert you could be the potential victim of a type of consumer fraud.

The number of scams seen is increasing statewide. In addition to counterfeit checks, members of the First Citizens Loss Prevention and Fraud Investigations Department are seeing the lottery scam — more commonly known as the advance fee scam.

Advance fee scams and counterfeit checks can cost banks and consumers millions of dollars each year say bank officials with First Citizens.

In these scam scenarios, the check a consumer receives looks legitimate. But after you deposit the check in your account and then wire or send funds to an unknown individual or company, you may have just lost the money you sent. It’s only when the check is processed and submitted to the originating bank that it is discovered the check is counterfeit.

Banks like, First Citizens, are protecting customers from fraud by training associates to be on the lookout for “Red Flags” of fraud and inform customers too. “Tellers and personal bankers at local branches can be the first line of defense against scam artists,” said Kathy Houston, Vice President of the Loss Prevention and Fraud Investigations Department at First Citizens in Columbia.

First Citizens educates its associates on the latest consumer scams to share with each customer who attempts to deposit a check from a suspicious source. Associates in the branches have the face-to-face interaction with the customer and can share the stories of customers that have become a victim of scams.

The First Citizens Loss Prevention and Fraud Investigations department works closely with other banks in South Carolina and across the country, the FBI, Secret Service and postal inspectors, as well as local and state law enforcement. In extreme cases of obvious fraud they have obtained warrants through law enforcement and had arrests, although that is very rare.

First Citizens offers these tips to help consumers protect themselves from becoming victims of these types of scams.

  • First and foremost, use good common sense. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Is the check for an item you sold more than the sales price?
  • Were you instructed to “wire”, “send” or “ship” money as soon as possible to a large U.S. city or another country?
  • Have you been notified that you were the winner of a lottery that you did not enter?
  • Scrutinize employment opportunities that claim you can make money working from home with little or no effort, especially if it says you only need a bank account.
  • Talk with a First Citizens associate in your local branch about any questionable offers you receive that involve sending money back to someone you do not know.

First Citizens Bancorporation, Inc. is the parent company of First Citizens Bank and Trust Company, Inc, and The Exchange Bank of South Carolina, Inc. First Citizens Bank offers services in commercial and retail banking through its approximately 170 offices in South Carolina and Georgia. As of September 30, 2006, First Citizens Bancorporation had total consolidated assets of $5.64 billion. For more information, visit the First Citizens web site at

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