offering a "best practices" program that officials assert could virtually eliminate check fraud. The program, developed after multiple evaluations and examination of more than 1,700 counterfeit items, brings specialized management procedures to bear in examining the ways bogus checks can penetrate a bank. An outgrowth of a three-year project at Northern Trust Corp., the program was credited with helping the Chicago bank detect more than $3 million worth of counterfeit checks. Although the program has not wiped out check fraud at Northern Trust, which processes about 21 million checks monthly, the bank has established what appears to be a successful defense against the estimated $2 billion in such losses suffered annually by the U.S. banking industry. "We train bank personnel in our comprehensive system," said Jack Coales, a vice president at Sycamore, Ill.-based Duplex. "We specifically advise the bank's information system staff to make programming adjustments in their DDA reporting system," he said, referring to demand deposit accounts. Components of the program, introduced this week at the American Bankers Association's operations and automation conference in Orlando, include a check detection incentive system and a management reporting element that keeps bank officers apprised of the methods used in check inspection. Northern Trust's check fraud program was initially developed by a former vice president, Juan Sistach, who is now president of Chicago-based Backroom Enterprises. The Backroom-Duplex alliance offers several consultation options for banks that may want to use elements of the program. Bruce L. Brett, a senior vice president of Signet Banking Corp., Richmond, Va., and chairman of the ABA's check fraud committee, said he is familiar with Northern Trust's efforts and also knows Mr. Sistach. Signet is likely to adopt a similar program, he said. "What I've been preaching is exactly what he's bringing to market," Mr. Brett said. "It's a scorecard, a series of questions that is key to the program."
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