Downtown Beaufort merchant warns businesses about fake traveler's check

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJuly 10, 2013 

A downtown Beaufort merchant is warning other business owners after he received a fake traveler's check that looked real, not only to his employee but to the bank where he deposited it.

Jack Sheehy, co-owner of Southern Sweets Ice Cream Parlor in Old Bay Marketplace on Bay Street, said a middle-aged couple used the $100 American Express traveler's check late Thursday night to purchase $8 worth of goods. They received the rest back in cash.

His employee followed protocol, which is posted on a wall in the business, on how to handle and properly identify a traveler's check. Sheehy said the business only receives a few traveler's checks a year.

It was deposited the next day with CBC National Bank, but American Express sent it back this week, calling it "fictitious." Sheehy and bank officials looked over the check and could see no problems. Watermarks, images and a holographic foil all looked as they should.

"The bank turned this thing over and over and over, and ... they couldn't see anything wrong with it," he said.

A follow-up call to American Express by Sheehy and the bank garnered little information on what was wrong with the check, and he is waiting for further information, he said.

A call to the bank representative working with Sheehy was not returned Wednesday. A spokeswoman for American Express said the company would look into the incident.

"I'm not exactly sure how I can protect myself from this," said Sheehy, who is out $100 for the check and a $10 fee after it bounced. He plans to appeal the ruling to American Express.

Sheehy said he also intends to file a police report, though the Beaufort Police Department had not received one as of Wednesday.

For now, Sheehy has decided not to accept traveler's checks and is warning other merchants in person and through Main Street Beaufort, USA.

"For people like me, I just can't take them anymore," he said.

Main Street Beaufort executive director LaNelle Fabian said she notified merchants of the incident through the organization's newsletter but said that it would be up to each of them whether to accept such checks.

"The issue is that no one knows what the problem is with them that makes them fraudulent," she said.

She also asked that businesses contact Main Street Beaufort if they have had similar experiences.

American Express' website states businesses are guaranteed payment as long as they follow the "Watch & Compare" procedure outlined on the site.

Checks have several security features, including the Centurion's portrait, holographic foil, a watermark and security thread, according to the website. They come in denominations of $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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