Units of the check printing company Deluxe Corp. have announced a service that allows banks to screen new accounts with a data base of bad checks written to major retailers and supermarkets.
The service links ChexSystems. an electronic listing of checking account abusers gathered from information supplied by banks, and the Shared Check Authorization Network (Scan), a data base of bounced checks supplied by retailers.
Deluxe, based in Minneapolis, acquired Scan two years ago with the intention of linking the two subsidiaries' data bases.
United Against Fraud
The service is one of the first examples of cooperation between retailer and banks to fight check fraud, which bankers believe has mounted since Regulation CC mandated accelerated funds availability.
Check fraud in California alone amounted to between $50 million and $75 million in 1992, according to a spokesman for Electronic Transaction Corp., which operates the Scan network.
"We encourage banks to use [these types of] networks," said Sally Shawen, assistant director of operations and automation for the American Bankers Association, which last month sponsored a meeting between retailers and bankers to discuss ways to combat check fraud.
At the meeting, retailers complained that branches do not use these networks to screen applicants for new accounts, Ms. Shawen said. "We hope branch people are following procedures as they are supposed to," she said.
ChexSystems, also based in Minneapolis, competes with other account verification networks, such as Telecheck, based in Rockville, Md.
A bank compares a potential account holder's Social Security number with the ChexSystems data base, which contains eight million Social Security numbers of known check abusers, including both individuals and companies.
But criminals often open new accounts at another bank before a bank closes an old account. By combining data on closed accounts with data on checks that have bounced at least twice, bankers have "an early-warning signal," said Denis duNann, president and chief executive officer of Electronic Transaction Corp., which is based in Seattle.
Deadbeat Data Base
K mart, Sears, J.C. Penney's, Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor, Vons, and other retailers contribute to the Scan data base, which consists of the MICR numbers and associated drivers' licenses for people who have written checks against closed accounts and those who have bounced checks at least twice.
"This is additional information that we think we can provide members in a straightforward manner that will help them make the decision about opening an account,"
Four banks are now testing the service, according to Ronald Flamini, marketing manager for Chexsystems. He declined to name them.
Merchants use the Scan network to screen checks at the point of sale, running the check through a terminal. If a hold has been placed on it, the retailer can reject the check at the time of the transaction.