Special Report: Cell phone cameras can be used to duplicate checks

Thieves are stealing money out of strangers bank accounts by using a new tactic: using their camera from their cell phone.

With advances in cell phone technology, cell phone cameras have almost caught up with their point-and-shoot counterparts from Nikon and Kodak in terms of clarity and capability.

"There are eyes watching that you don't even realize," Major Jackie Brothers from the West Columbia, South Carolina Police Department said.

According to Brothers, a team of scammers in Columbia stole thousands of dollars from random bank accounts.

"It's just very simple for them to do this," said Brothers.

And it is quite simple. Say you're in the check-out line at the grocery store and you decide to write a check. As you write your check, a scammer can snap a quick picture on their cell phone camera and take it to a computer to begin a duplication process.

With a special computer program they doctor the check. They erase your handwriting, erase your name, and type the name of a phony business in its place.

They keep your bank account and routing number the same, but they change the check number as if they stole a check from deeper in your checkbook. Then they print it.

"They would get them printed, they would take them to a location, purchase whatever they wanted to purchase, sign their name, use their own ID," said Brothers.

The money is drawn from your bank account and you never knew they were there.

Police fear many more will get involved in this criminal activity, and they feel the best defense is you.

"Be vigilant. Don't allow yourself to be vulnerable to this kind of crime," said Brothers.

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