Wade Cavitt was surprised when his wife told him a fraudulent check was cashed for $1,500 under one of his business’ names, Cavitt Land and Cattle.
Just a few weeks after the first check was cashed, two more — one for $950 and one for $1,200 — were cashed under the name of another Cavitt business, Lobo Nut and Bolt.
“About five weeks ago, there was a check written on my account for $1,500. It wasn’t my check, it wasn’t my signature, and it had gone down to (a local check cashing company) and was cashed,” Cavitt told the News-Sun. “My wife caught the check, cause she reviews our accounts every day. I found it funny that it was cashed at (a local check cashing company) where my crew normally goes to cash their checks.
“Two weeks after the first incident, Lobo Nut and Bolt got hit in the same way. Our bank account, fraud, two different checks. One was cashed at Albertsons, the other one was so vague we don’t know where it was cashed.”
About 20 miles away, Nor-Lea General Hospital in Lovington, had a similar issue happen. David Shaw, CEO for the hospital told the News-Sun three or four checks were cashed or were attempted to be cashed via the bank or a local grocery store.
“A few weeks ago it was brought to our attention by our local bank that somebody had attempted to cash some check,” Nor-Lea Hospital’s CEO David Shaw said. “ These checks were not our check stock and were fraudulent checks. Our bank never honored the checks.
“Unfortunately, those checks — at least from what we know — were checks that were cashed at local grocery stores for cash. We haven’t heard of any new incidents of this happening again in the last week.”
Shaw said the checks floating around look similar to a Nor-Lea check, but like the fraudulent checks Cavitt’s business ran into, anyone who has previously done business with Nor-Lea or Cavitt would be able to recognize the difference.
“The fake ones going around are not the current or previous check stock we’ve ever used,” Shaw said. “They look obvious to us, and anybody who has previously received a check from us would be able to compare the two.”
“THE CHECK WASN’T anything like mine, but they had my bank account number. I also sometimes write on the checks ‘contract labor’ and somebody had to have seen one of those checks because it was labeled that,” Cavitt said. “Also, another thing on the checks is my billing address isn’t my PO Box, it’s another address. Even though they do have the right PO Box, the billing address is wrong.”
Another common factor between the two business is the fraudulent checks for both Nor-Lea and Cavitt fall out of sequence with their regular check numbers.
According to Lovington Police Chief David Miranda, “the fraudulent checks have the Nor-Lea logo on them, a check number, and looks like one of those preprinted checks from a larger institution.”
It’s the first time Shaw, who has been with the hospital for 23 years, has seen something like this happen.
He also said the Lovington Police Department doesn’t have any suspects right now.
“We just know it might be somebody who has seen our checks and is trying to mimic them. We are a large employer,” Shaw said.
Both Shaw and Cavitt told the News-Sun the problem with fraud is two fold.
First, it can drain an individual, institution, or business, and if the fraud isn’t caught soon enough, the money is gone. There isn’t much a person or bank can do after the fact.
The second issue is handling the problem can become costly.
For victims like Cavitt, who now has to pay his bank an extra $100 a month for “positive pay” which requires Cavitt to go to the bank daily to look at checks which are flowing into and out of his bank account. This added expense is a necessary but costly measure he has to take.
“There’s guidelines in the banking industry if you don’t report the fraud in so many days, or do this step, then you’re out of luck,” Cavitt said. “Fortunately I can afford a hit like this, but what about someone who lives paycheck to paycheck?
“My concern is what if this happens to them and they can’t get their money back, or it takes four weeks to get their money back? The bank has protections and every day we have to go in and approve our checks. My experience in banking has gone up due to the increase in fraud.”
According to Cavitt, the only common denominator in all of the fraud cases was the local check cashing company his employees use.
“THE ONLY THING I can think of — and I can’t prove this — but it seems like (all of the fraud) is funneling through (the check cashing company) for some reason. That’s my opinion because the Lobo checks are sometimes cashed at (the check cashing company),” Cavitt said.
Cavitt said what also scares him about the fraud is, not only did these criminals have his bank account information, but they also had his PO Box number, his home address and how he labels individual checks.
According to Cavitt, he filed a report with the Hobbs Police Department but they are still investigating the case.
“There isn’t a trend going on with the fraudulent checks,” HPD Public Information Officer Reanna Alar-con said. “We are working the case with the Cavitt Cattle Company but at this point, we haven’t gotten an overwhelming amount of reports from people about fraud.
“At the moment we aren’t naming any suspects and we aren’t sure where the checks are coming from.”
Alarcon noted it wouldn’t be very difficult for a person to mimic a check and then alter it.
“It’s a possibility (the checks could’ve been done on a computer),” Alarcon said.
According to Miranda, LPD is not investigating the fraudulent check cases in Lovington because there are no cameras at the place the checks were cashed.
“We are having this battle with (the place the checks were cashed) because they have not fixed their video system, which means the district attorney will not prosecute. We tell them, no video, we’ll take an investigation report but that’s all we can do,” Miranda said. “How can I prove that person physically passed that bad check without a copy of their ID? If you have someone who provides a real driver’s license and it’s on the check and I look at the video footage and see their face, we have them.”
Alarcon urges people to reach out to HPD for any business, individual, or organization who may have an issue with fraud.
“It might be something minute, but it definitely needs to be reported because, should this become a trend, we need to stay on top of it,” Alarcon said. “Be aware if you are accepting a personal check. Make sure the watermarks are there and everything looks right. Look for crooked font or anything that might stand out and look like a fraudulent check.”