Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video
CLEBURNE COUNTY, AL (WBRC) –
An Alabama toddler, once made the target of a cruel internet meme, is now the target of a different heinous act – check fraud.
In response to an On Your Side story showing how an internet bully converted a photo of Grayson Smith into a meme, hundreds of generous donors contributed thousands of dollars to the toddler’s YouCaring Compassionate Crowdfunding account. According to his mother, Jenny Smith, that account helps pay for medical bills to treat Grayson’s numerous health ailments, including hydrocephalus and a prematurely hardened skull.
“We got amazing support,” said Smith. “The prayers, people contacting us, it was amazing. And it just spread all over the world,” she said.
But news of the meme, and Grayson’s crowdfunding account, also caught the attention of crooks.
“It started with an email from a gentleman,” explained Jenny, which was not out of the ordinary. She says they are contacted often by kind people with a desire to help.
Next, the man mailed what appeared to be an authentic bank check for $2,500 issued by BBVA Compass Bank.
Jenny says she became suspicious when the name on the check differed from the name of the man who initially contacted her. Then, the check was followed by a flurry of aggressive text messages instructing that the check be deposited, not cashed, the same day.
“Why can’t you deposit the check today,” one text message asked.
“When you get pressure like that, that sends up a red flag,” said Jenny.
She says she took the check to a BBVA Compass bank branch and the teller confirmed it was fake.
The Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
Investigators say that depositing the fake check would have provided sensitive account information and eventually would allow thieves to steal money from the account.
“She did exactly the right thing,” said Brad Hitson, Fraud Prevention Manger for Regions Bank.
“This fraud that we see on a daily basis is paid for ultimately by the consumer and/or the bank and it affects everybody,” he explained.
Most recent industry data available from the American Bankers Association shows $6.8 billion worth of check fraud was attempted in 2014. Most of it was prevented, but banks lost $615 million from check fraud that year.
“A lot of this is facilitated online,” explained Hitson.
He says there are tell-tale warning signs of check fraud, including:
- being contacted online
- never meeting the drafter of the check
- getting the check for nothing
- and an emotional ploy
A spokesperson for BBVA Compass Bank adds that customers should check for security features that combat counterfeiting and alteration. In this case, the check sent to the Smiths was missing a phone number for the bank.
When in doubt about a check, Hitson says take it to the bank.
“We have been through a lot with Grayson with memes and hurtful emails and comments and everything,” recounted Jenny. “And now, they are targeting him for fraud.”
But she’s quick to remember the outpouring of love and support.
It’s “comforting and a relief that people really do care to help others,” she said, while holding Grayson on her lap. She says he’s doing well and recently returned to school after recovering from his 24th surgery.
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