Forge Me if You Can
As Abagnale explained, Check 21 makes many kinds of check fraud easier. “The truth is, [banks] really don’t care about fraud. All they care about is the cost of doing business,” he asserted. Via Check 21, banks save enough money on transportation costs and make enough money on increased volume and speed of transactions to outweigh the cost of fraud.
According to Abagnale, “Business-to-business, the check is still the most popular form of payment made by a company to another company” and “On the personal side ... Americans are writing about 39 billion checks a year.” With so much money moving on checks, it is no wonder banks sought a faster way to work with them, even at the cost of increasing fraud instances.
For these reasons Abagnale said, “I always tell people ‘you have to protect yourself.’ You can’t rely on the bank to protect you; you can’t rely on the police to protect you; you can’t rely on the government to protect you. You have to be a smarter business person, a wiser business person.”
One serious security hole in Check 21 has to do with evidence. Suppose a forged check is scanned, truncated and paid. When the fraud is detected later, it is very possible the original document will no longer exist. The evidence of the forgery is destroyed. Abagnale related one of his own scams to convey how modern technology and laws make fraud easier than when he was pulling scams. Abagnale had devised a way to coat counterfeit checks with a caustic chemical. “Within 24 hours the check would disintegrate and I called it the disappearing check. So there was no check by the time it went to deposit. [When it] went into the clearing house it was nothing but shreds of paper. ... This is basically the same thing,” he said.