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Raising checks has become the greatest danger to the banks. There is

no comparison between raising checks with a genuine signature and

forging the signature itself, so far as ease of execution is

concerned. After many years of arduous work and after great

expenditures of money the banks have to admit sorrowfully that if a

man wants to raise a check he can do it; and the detection, while, of

course, inevitab
e when the paid check returns to the depositor, is

not immediate enough to prevent the swindler from getting away with

the money.

That is why the most implacable enemy of the men who dare raise or

falsify a check is the American Bankers' Association. This great

concern in reality is a protective association, and it relentlessly

hunts down all forgers first, last, and all the time. It never lets

up, absolutely never, no matter time, money, or trouble. It bitterly

pursues defaulters for the sake of justice, but it has still another

object in its deadly trailing of forgers and check tampereus. That is

because the whole banking structure hangs on signed paper. When it can

be altered with impunity, away goes the financial system of to-day.

Hence the unrelenting hunting-down of forgers who trifle with men's

names. On the books of more than one large detective agency of the

country are cases more than ten years old. The forgers never have been

found, but the hunt still goes on. Reports of the chase come in

regularly and the books will not be closed until the hunt stops at

prison doors or beside a grave.

Yet with all this remorseless hunting, check-raising flourishes so

well all over the United States that the banks fear to give even a

hint as to the sums of which they or their depositors are robbed each

year. The magnitude of the amount would frighten too many persons.

For a time it was thought that the use of chemically prepared paper

would prove a safeguard, because any erasure or alteration would show

immediately. The chemicals used in its composition would make the ink

run if acids were used to change the figures. But among the

check-raisers there were chemists just as clever as the chemists who

devised the prepared paper.

Then paper with watermarks woven through it was used. But it, too,

became an easy mark for the chemists who had gone wrong.

Finally, and until recently, the banking world thought that it had

struck the absolute safeguard by using a machine to stamp on the check

the exact amount for which it was drawn, the machine perforating the

paper as it stamped it. Certainly it does seem that when the paper is

cut right out of the check, leaving nothing but holes, no change is

humanly possible. But the completeness of this supposed safeguard has

offered a tempting field for the check-raiser.

A special detective in the employ of the American Bankers'

Association, who has spent half the years of his mature life in

running down forgers and check-raisers, said that it was "too easy" to

raise checks, and that a good many more men than try it now would do

it were it not for the well-known relentlessness of the association in

running down offenders against any single one of its constituent


"Write me a check for any sum you want," said the sleuth, "and I'll

show you."

A check for $200 was written and passed over to him. In less than two

minutes, without an erasure of any kind, the check called for $500,

and the work was done so well even in that short time that the writer

would have been tempted to believe that he had made an error and

really drawn the check for that amount had he not been sure to the


"That kind of raising is easy," said the expert. "You see it demands

no interlining or extending of words. The check-raiser simply knows

how well certain characters lend themselves to changes that cannot be

detected. The capital _T_ in almost every man's handwriting can be

changed to a capital _F_ without any trouble by even an unskilled


A check for $2,000 was raised to $50,000 almost in the wink of an eye.

"This is the easy and safer part of the business," said he. "But when

a check is to be raised from a sum like $10 to, say, $10,000, and the

drawer has written it so that there is no room between the word 'ten'

and 'dollars,' chemicals must be used. There is always more danger of

detection in that. In the mere alteration of a check there is little.

Look here. I'll change your checks as fast as you can write them, and

I bet a lot of my alterations will pass muster."

A pad was hauled out and the writer filled the sheets out with

carefully written amounts. The expert was as good as his word. He

altered them almost as fast as they were written. Some, to be sure,

were crude and would have betrayed the fact of alteration to the eye

of any careful banker. But many were almost perfect, and all were

wonderfully deceptive and showed what could be done by a crook who had

plenty of time.

"But how about the perforations?" he was asked. "How could a crook

change them?"

"Nothing easier," was the reply. "The fact that checks stamped with

the amount in perforated characters are considered safe aids the

swindler. Really, to beat the perforations is so easy that it will

make you smile. All the outfit that is needed is a common little punch

with assorted small cutting tubes and a bottle of an invisible glue

that every crook can make or that he can buy in certain places that

every crook knows. Now, here is a check stamped in perforated

characters $300$. I take my little punch and fit into it a cutter that

will punch holes of the same size as the holes in the perforations.

"Now I punch out of the edge of the check a few tiny disks. I moisten

the tip of a needle and press them carefully into the holes that make

the upper part of the figure 3. See, even in my haste and without

glue, they fill the perforations completely and I can shake and pull

the check without disturbing them."

It was true. The little plugs fitted perfectly, and even with the

knowledge that they were there it was almost impossible to see where

they had been inserted.

"Now," continued the expert, "I merely take my punch and carefully

punch enough holes to the right of the upper part of the figure 3 to

make it a 5. And there you are. If I wanted to pass this check through

the bank I would only have to complete the job by smearing a drop of

the invisible glue over the back where I have plugged the original

holes. This glue is wonderfully tenacious and will actually hold the

edges of paper together. It needs only the smallest surface in order

to get hold. After it is on not even the microscope could detect it

readily. And no amount of pulling or shaking of the check will disturb


"You may suppose that a check that is stamped this way, for

instance--$600$--would be hard to change into one of four figures. But

it is almost equally easy. The crook simply punches out enough disks

from the edge to fill up the last dollar mark completely, and after he

has plugged it and the glue is dry he punches a cipher into the place

and then punches a dollar mark after it. Of course, after punching the

little disks out of the edge of the check it is necessary to trim that

part of the paper, but that is done readily, for checks always have

ample margin.

"The check-raiser does not depend on the fact that the scrutiny of

checks in a large bank is bound to be hasty, but he knows that he need

not fear if his work is at all well done, for the paying teller simply

cannot spend much time in examining the many checks that are passed


"One New York City bank sends through the clearing-house daily an

average of 3,100 checks, and as there are about sixty-five such banks

in the clearinghouse the total number of checks handled in the few

hours of business in a day is something enormous.

"It is this haste--which, by the way, is absolutely necessary in order

to keep the books posted to date--that is responsible for the passing

of one of the most peculiar checks that ever came under the notice of

the detectives of America. In this case the check was neither

falsified nor was the signature forged, but it was bogus just the


"It was a check made up of the parts of two checks, and all the

implements necessary for falsification were a pair of scissors and

that invisible glue. The clever swindler had got hold of two genuine

checks from the same bank. One was for $1,000 and the other for $70.

Placing these two checks together, one on top of the other, he cut

them through neatly with the scissors. Then he pasted that portion

bearing the word 'seventy' on the one check to that part bearing the

word 'thousand' on the other. So the composite check read to pay to

the holder 'seventy thousand' dollars. As the cutting was made through

both checks in exactly the same place, the edges fitted perfectly.

They were glued together and the check readily passed the bank

cashier. The man was caught and made restitution without publicity,

but the case gave bankers a shock. Other somewhat similar cases are

known, but none involving such a large amount.

"A famous case was the celebrated Seaver fraud. He bought a draft for

$12 from the Bank of Woodland (Cal.), and, although it was written on

chemical 'safety' paper and perforated in two places with a check

punch, he raised it to $12,000, and it was passed successfully and


"But however successful they may be for a time, it is the fatal hoodoo

of this 'most gentlemanly' way of making a living without earning it

that a forgery is always discovered and the forger generally caught.

That is because the forged check remains in existence and must be paid

by some one, and sooner or later there will be an outcry. The best the

raiser can hope for is to escape before the crime is discovered.

"Once the false check is passed and he has the money, his first idea

is as to where he shall hide. Another fatality attaching to his

peculiar business is that the same place that he thinks of flying to

is the place that suggests itself to the mind of the thief-chaser. In

other words, knowing their man, the man-hunters can guess well where

to find him.

"If a forger wants to bury himself, he thinks of South America,

because it is easy to get there, and apparently out of the world.

Then, of South America, he probably only thinks of Venezuela, or

closer home--of Guatemala or Panama. So the South American hunt is

simplicity itself, as there are not so many large ports that strange

Americans can pass through unnoticed.

"If a forger wants to continue in his crooked business he thinks of

London, Paris, Berlin, and maybe Vienna. We guess at his calibre and

whether he wants more money, and know where he probably will go to get

it, for the professional crook has an international acquaintance, and

he only goes among friends. So we follow him.

"If a forger is an adventurous spirit and committed the crime on

impulse, and we could learn absolutely nothing more about him, we

would look in that Mecca of adventurers, South Africa, for him. In

fact, our first business is to learn what kind of a man he is, then

shut our eyes and guess which one of a few places he will fly to. The

guess often is so good that our men await him when the steamer lands

there. If not, we don't forget the sailing vessels."