Recently, several Bozeman-area banks fell victim to a national scam law enforcement is calling "Operation Homeless" where homeless individuals are persuaded to cash fake checks.
"They usually present this fraud as something like, you know, they can't cash their own paycheck for some reason and they try to give it some kind of plausible deniability for the individual that they're trying to convince to cash the check for them," says Bozeman Police Detective Jake Ahmann. "In exchange, that individual is going to be promised some smaller dollar amount of the figure."
Ahmann says Operation Homeless is a national fraudulent check-cashing scam involving a highly organized operation that persuades homeless individuals to cash fake checks.
Last year, around this time, MTN reported on a similar check fraud case.
In this most recent case that targeted several banks in the area including First Security Bank, law enforcement was able to warn neighboring towns before the fraud occurred elsewhere.
"In this most recent case, with those relationships with the banks and then with local law enforcement efforts all around Livingston, Livingston police were able to apprehend two individuals that actually had, like, the printers and the checks with them," says Detective Ahmann. "So that was a really big win for law enforcement in that case."
Detective Ahmann says fraud like this is hard to catch because individuals come into the bank and present their real ID's with a check that appears to be real. Several days might pass before the banks realize that they are out of the money. Ahmann ensures that it is not the bank's fault for falling for these scams.
"I want to emphasize that it's no fault of their own and the individuals that with the, like the names that were on the check, you know, they are reimbursed by the bank," says Ahmann. "So the bank is ultimately the one that's out the funds. So that's why they become the victim."
The Bozeman Police Department says they warn banks of these scams and are investigating another possible group of scammers that may be in town for similar reasons.