However, the report does illustrate the following in relation to the Bank at that time in its history:
- the degree of involvement of the Bank's Chairman in fairly routine matters;
- the types of fraud attempted against the Bank;
- the Bank's policy to ensure that the Bank was not seen as an 'easy target' for fraudsters;
- the severity of punishment handed out by the Court;
- how the use of temporary and inexperienced wartime staff resulted in some difficulties in relation to
the verifying of the signatures of depositors;
- how the Bank's procedures in relation to the specimen signatures of depositors was subsequently tightened
Report of the General Manager:
The following proceedings have been taken for irregularities in respect of the withdrawal of money from accounts:
Account No: KS 9630
15/-d. withdrawn by the brother of the depositor. Their mother reported the loss of the pass book, and stated that the depositor was in H.M. Forces. When informed of the withdrawal, she suspected another son aged 17, who had been in an approved school for three years, and was beyond her control. She wished action to be taken. Magistrates imposed a fine of £10, to be paid at rate of £1 per week. Only because of his age, he was not sent to prison.
Account No: PC 14655
Two withdrawals, of £16 and £7, were made by the brother of the depositor, who is in the Royal Navy. Their mother reported the loss of the pass book. The signatures given for the withdrawals are not good ones, and should not have been accepted by a temporary officer who dealt with the case. She accepted an explanation as to the alteration of the signature on the first occasion, which made it easy to effect a second withdrawal. The Manager of the branch was not consulted by Assistant. Police investigations proved that other youths to be involved in stealing coupon books, a doll's pram, in addition to obtaining money from the Bank. One youth was fined £5; another placed on probation for three years, and a third youth (brother of depositor) committed to an approved school.
Account No: C 39139
Post Office Savings Bank Authorities instituted proceedings against a son of the depositor for wrongfully obtaining money from the depositor's account in the Post Office. Son was apprehended, and whilst in custody made a statement that he had illegally made withdrawals from his father's account in Municipal Bank on 14 occasions, totalling £122. 4. 9d., commencing to do so in June 1944. These forgeries were made easy through a temporary officer taking a new signature on a continuation ledger card, and not comparing it with the original signature of the depositor. There was no justification for accepting the new signature. The Branch Manager was not consulted. Stipendiary Magistrate committed the son to the Assizes, where he was sentenced to 12 months' hard labour, and to be privately whipped with 18 strokes of the birch.
Account No: BS 19606
Depositor notified loss of pass book, and stated that no transaction had taken place since the original deposit was made. Actually, six withdrawals had been made, totalling £25. 2. 2d. Depositor suspected sister-in-law. Investigations proved that the sister-in-law had not only signed depositor's name at the Bank, but had also signed her name on a National Identity Card which was produced as evidence of being the person named in the account. Sister-in-law was sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment.
Account No: BS 10787
Application made by wife to obtain £67 from this joint account. The pass book had been mutilated, some pages having been removed, and numerous fictitious entries made on the remaining pages to show a balance of £134. 14. 3d instead of correct balance, viz, £2. 19. 7d. Case investigated by Police who were satisfied that the sole object of the husband in making false entries was to deceive his wife. Wife was not guilty of any wrong action, because she believed pass book entries to be correct. No question as to withdrawals having been made by one or other of theparties entitled to make them. Police came to the conclusion that although male depositor acted foolishly, it was really a family matter. Chief Constable and Chief Superintendent Baguley did not advise proceedings. Male depositor expressed regret for his foolishness,and Chairman accepted advice of Police.
Account No: OH 12761
Infant's account opened by mother. On attaining age of seven years, minor gave signature, as required by the Regulations. On 2nd June, £3 was withdrawn by means of pay-bearer form, on which the depositor's signature was stated to have been witnessed by a woman who died on 4th June, i.e., two days after withdrawal. Strong ground for believing that person signing as depositor also signed as witness, and suspicion centred on a brother, 16 years of age, who had an account in the Bank, and whose handwriting corresponded with the forged signature. Police investigated, and satisfied themselves that the brother was involved. Brother admitted the offence, and was bound over by Magistrates for 12 months on surety of £2. Court ordered him to pay £3 to the Bank, which has been done.
Account No: L 26008
Depositor reported loss of pass book, and mentioned having also lost a Ration Books and an Identity Card. The same day, a woman presented a pass book and a home safe, and signed a receipt for £7 with intention of procuring that amount. Cashier noticed a "stop" on the account, and asked if Ration Books and Identity Card had also been found. Woman was confused, but said they were at home. Before any further questions could be asked, a man, who had accompanied her, interrupted to say he was the depositor's husband, and produced his Identity Card. The Manager of the branch then took the couple into the private office, where the woman again asserted she was the depositor but had not lost her pass book. The man was argumentative, but the Manager refused to pay, and retained pass book. Controller directed to investigate. He saw the depositor, who stated her husband came home slightly drunk on the previous Friday evening, and ill-treated her. She ran out of the house, and spent the night with friend. On Sunday she met her husband, who Informed her that the pass book, together with home safe, had been taken to the Bank, and handedover Identity Card and Ration Books. Husband arrived during this interview, and admitted visiting the branch with a strange woman he had picked up in the street to impersonate his wife, and that she had, at his request, signed a receipt in the name of the depositor. He said he did not know this woman, and explained his action by saying that he believed the money in the account belonged to him. He was now anxious that his wife should have the money, and pleaded for Bank not to take action. Later, depositor attended at Head Office, and pleaded for no action against her husband.
The Chairman considered the case, and gave instructions to consult the Police. If they considered actions should be taken, then proceedings would follow; but if they considered it inadvisable to take proceedings, Bank would not press case. Police reported that when account was opened, the husband told the depositor to open a joint account so that either might operate same. This had been admitted by depositor and confirmed to the Bank. Depositor further stated that the money belonged to her husband as well as herself. Police did not advise proceedings, and the Chairman concurred.
Account No: PH 10241
Police instituted enquiries regarding a cheque payable to an individual, but deposited in a Society account. Proceedings instituted by employers included a charge of embezzling a cheque for £20 and stealing property. The Bank was not brought into the case. The Magistrates finedthe man £50, or in default, two months' imprisonment.
Account No: HG 16875
Attempt made by a woman to obtain £15. Cashier challenged the signature, and not being satisfied, referred it to the Manager, who declined to make payment. Woman asserted she was the depositor, but eventually admitted that was not true, but said that she had been sent to make withdrawal by depositor. Later she returned to the Bank accompanied by the depositor, and admitted wrongfully attempting to obtain money, and apologised. Depositor suggested no action being taken, but Chairman felt it was a deliberate attempt to obtain £15 by repeated false statements, and that the facts should be placed before the Police for consideration as to whether or not proceedings should be taken. Police were satisfied it was a case to be brought before the Magistrates. The woman was fined £5 or 31 days on a charge of larceny, and £5 or 31 days on a charge of forgery. Fines were ultimately paid.
The Chairman and I consider it to be the correct policy to place cases of attempted withdrawal by false pretences, and those which appear to be cases of forgery, in the hands of the Police, so that they may pursue their enquiries and determine whether there is sufficient justification to warrant proceedings at Court. The knowledge that the Bank is alive to such attempts should act as a deterrent to others.
Arising out of these matters, the Chairman and I have considered what steps to take to minimise risks involved in suchcases, and have thought it fitting to lay down directions to the staff that whenever a doubtful signature is given, the Manager must be consulted; and in all cases where a fresh signature is obtained, the Manager and a second officer must satisfy themselves, and having done so, must place their initials beside the new signature.