Dawn Gibson/Victoria News

Dawn Gibson/Victoria News

Cheque fraud affecting more local businesses

Chamber of commerce, police hosting town hall meeting on fraud.

It’s a scam Victoria police say is affecting more local businesses every year.

A person, working in a position of financial authority, begins quietly stealing funds from a company. For the next several months or years, the bookkeeper continues to steal funds in small amounts until someone notices money has gone missing and the incident is reported to police.

While credit card and exchange fraud continue to be a problem for businesses, those aren’t necessarily the types of fraud costing them the most money or causing the most damage, said police. It’s the cases which involve an employee stealing money, which can sometimes be the most damaging.

“Quite often fraud against businesses in large amounts, it’s often done by someone who’s been there for some time and someone who is the only person with access to financial records or accounts,” said Bowen Osoko, acting media spokesperson for the Victoria Police Department. “The ones done by internal people tend to go on longer and tend to have larger losses.”

In one incident in Victoria, an employee stole more than $90,000 over several years from a local business.

Another high profile case of defrauding an employer was in the spotlight last year, when a constituency assistant defrauded MLA Rob Fleming’s office of more than $120,000 over six years. Earlier this year, a judge handed Marni Offman a two-year conditional sentence.

It’s a type of fraud police are seeing more of and many of the cases involve a number of cheques forged over several months or years.

But how are employees defrauding businesses of thousands of dollars? Police say it’s because it’s becoming easier to forge or doctor cheques.

Businesses can do a number of things to protect themselves, such as checking the ins and outs of accounts daily, as well as moving away from cheques and speaking to financial advisors about switching to electronic banking.

“If people are updated on their accounts and they’re doing things electronically it seems to be reducing the risk of some of the most common things we’re seeing (such as cheque fraud),” Osoko said.

The scam is one of many that has prompted police and the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce to take action and warn the business community. On Wednesday, May 10 (today), the organizations are hosting a town hall meeting on what businesses can do to protect themselves from business crime and fraud.

Acting police chief Del Manak, Sgt. Det. Derek Tolmie and a number of reserves will be on hand to speak about a variety of issues ranging from counterfeit currency to credit card fraud.

There will also be an opportunity for business owners to ask questions and seek advice on fraud, shoplifting, theft, personal safety and reporting fraud to police.

The business crime and fraud town hall meeting takes place at the Esquimalt Curling Rink Lounge beginning at 6:30 p.m. For more information visit esquimaltchamber.ca.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com