The following extracts from the early Minutes of the Bank's Management Committee meetings give details of a variety of types of frauds attempted against the Bank and its depositors. The cases include the common problems of inter-family forgeries and unauthorised passbook amendments; a pair of 'professional fraudsters' at Spring Hill branch; a description of the unusual and unsatisfactory systems used at Bournville Works branch; and an attempt to obtain the contents of another person's home safe.
Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank:
Consultative Sub-Committee - July 7th 1919
The Manager reported that there had been a case of wrongfully obtaining money to the extent of £50 by the brother of one of the bank depositors. The man had drawn money on 23 occasions and signed his brother's name. The Manager stated he had communicated the facts of the case to the depositors.
Birmingham Municipal Bank:
Finance Sub-Committee - Monday, July 14th 1924
The General Manager reported that the trial of the recent forgery case at the Rotton Park Branch had now been concluded, and the accused had been sentenced at the Assizes to 12 months' imprisonment. A letter was submitted from Mr J W Bayliss (the depositor) requesting that the amount should be replaced by the Bank. The General Manager expressed his views as to the liability of the Bank who he was of opinion would have to recoup the depositor the amount of the loss incurred.
RESOLVED:- That subject to the Town Clerk being satisfied that the Bank was liable the General Manager be authorised to draw a cheque on the general funds of the Bank for the amount involved and to place same to the credit of Mr Bayliss.
RESOLVED:- That the Chairman of the General Committee and the General Manager be empowered to take such action as they may consider appropriate with regard to the Branch Manager concerned in the preceding transaction.
Finance Sub-Committee - Monday, October 12th 1925
The General Manager reported that a withdrawal of £3 had taken place at Stirchley Branch on 11th Sept. 1925 from the account of J H Dunnaker, who disputed the payment, and asserted he had never signed the receipt produced. Investigations proved that a younger brother had wrongfully given the receipt (which had a remarkable resemblance to the specimen signature in the books of the Bank) and had erased from the pass books the entries relating to the withdrawal. Both brothers had been seen and the younger admitted his actions. A fresh receipt for the £3 had been given by the depositor.
The General Manager suggested that as the younger brother did not appear to realise the seriousness of his action, he should be summoned to appear before the Chairman, and this course was agreed to.
Finance and House Purchase Sub-Committee - Monday, July 12th 1926
The following report of the General Manager was submitted regarding an attempt which had been made to obtain money under false pretences at the Spring Hill Branch:-
Attempt to obtain money illegally at Spring Hill Branch.
On the 1st June 1926 a person giving the name of Annie Hatton and an address at 19 St Mark's Street, Ladywood, opened an account with £3 in Treasury Notes and a money order for £12 signed by Wm. Lyons. She explained that the order was given to her in discharge of a debt, and that she expected further moneys coming to her which she would deposit. Later in the day the woman attended again at Spring Hill Branch and presented a cheque payable to Mrs A Hatton for £15 and signed by Wm. Lyons, which she desired to cash. The cheque was drawn on Barclays Bank, Cardiff. The acting Branch Manager (Mr Smallwood) explained that payment beyond the £3 could not be made until the money order and cheque had been cleared, which would be three days. Whereupon the woman withdrew £3 and gave notice to withdraw £10. The cheque was returned promptly from Cardiff marked "No Account", and subsequently the Post Office Authorities notified the Police that the money order was originally issued for £2 and had been altered to £12 and instructing them to take action.
Mr Smallwood gave information to the Police as to his transactions with the woman and furnished a description of her. She had never resided at the address given and was apparently unknown.
A description of frauds on banks by a young woman (whose methods closely resembled those of the person in question) appeared in the "Birmingham Mail" on June 19th and it was stated that banks in Birmingham had been used and others at Manchester, Liverpool, Burton-on-Trent, Ledbury, Glasgow, Fleetwood and elsewhere. Later the Police got on the track and she was caught in Peebles and is at present in custody in a nursing institution. It is also thought that the man associated with her, has been found.
The General Manager understands that she will be tried in Scotland for offences in that country, and will be dealt with according to Scottish law which may not take into account the English cases, and that it may be some time before the English charges can be brought against her. It is further undecided which town will take the proceedings.
The General Manager has cancelled the deposits in respect of the £15 cheque returned and £10 of the money order, leaving £2 to credit in the account, but has further placed a stop payment on the £2.
It may be that evidence will be required in respect of the transactions at Spring Hill, in which case every assistance will be given to the Police.
The General Manager has had a conference with all Branch Managers and Clerks-in-Charge, and pointed out how the transactions have been made, and emphasised the necessity of taking great care in dealing with a person unknown to them.
July 7th 1926
RESOLVED:- That the foregoing report be approved and the General Manager's action therein referred to confirmed.
He also reported as follows with reference to an attempt to obtain money at the Bournville Works Branch:-
Illegal Withdrawals at Bournville Works Branch.
In the early part of March this year L P Jones, a depositor, asked a workman friend, R J Brunt, to withdraw £3 from his account, giving him a withdrawal receipt form signed for that amount, and also his pass book. Brunt obtained the £3 from the Works Collector on the 12th March, but only handed £2 to Jones, telling him that the Collector had not sufficient money in his box to pay him, and retaining the pass book. On the 1st April Brunt obtained a withdrawal form from the Collector, took it to Jones and told him it was necessary for him to sign it so that he could get the remaining £1. Jones signed the form in blank, and gave it to Brunt, who in turn took it to the Collector and told him Jones wanted £7. The Collector then filled in the form for £7 and handed the money to Brunt. Brunt gave Jones £1 only and kept £6 himself. Jones met Brunt in some public house, and when taxed with his conduct in the matter Brunt asked Jones not to take action against him, and that he would repay the money by instalments. Jones, however, decided to place the matter in the hands of the Police, and accordingly the case came before the Birmingham Magistrates (Mr Bruff and Miss Martineau) on the 31st May 1926. Mr Willison defended Brunt, and succeeded in getting his acquittal on the ground that the money was only retained as a loan, and would be repaid, having elicited from the prosecutor that there had been previously several borrowings from one to the other. Mr Bruff (the Magistrate) made the remark that the sooner the Branch was outside the Works and conducted in the same way as other Branches, the better.
No claim has been made on the Bank in the matter, and it is unlikely that any claim will be made, but the circumstances has caused the General Manager to go into the question of procedure adopted at Bournville Works Branch, and discuss the matter fully with the Auditors.
Whilst realising that a certain slackness has been observed which it is desirable to tighten up, the Auditors are of opinion that little change can be recommended in respect of the system, unless the Firm and the Works' Councils are prepared to adopt another system. This, neither the Firm nor the Works' Councils are prepared to do, arguing that for over twenty years the fund has been worked in a manner somewhat similar to the present, and that any serious change may result in the closing of the fund. The amount of the depositors' balances at March last was £199,243, and in the opinion of the Auditors and General Manager that fact, and the income therefrom, cannot be lightly ignored. The firm are responsible for the actions of the Works' Collectors, and it is estimated that it costs the Firm each year over £2,000 to work the system. This they have no desire to interfere with.
The General Manager has, however, thought it necessary to point out to the Firm that certain requirements must be carried out if the Bank is to be associated with the fund, and he has suggested as follows:-
(1) That the practice of one of the Bournville Works Branch officials initialling every entry in the pass books (which has been abandoned without authority) must be restored.
(2) That withdrawals over £10 (preferably £5) must be made at the Bournville Works Branch Office by one of the officials, and not by a collector.
(3) That no withdrawal form must be accepted which has not been properly made out previous to signing by the depositor.
(4) That payments by collectors must only be made to the depositor, whom they are presumed to know, and not to third parties.
(5) That payment to a third party must only be made on the special form provided for that purpose, and the transaction take place at the Bournville Works Branch Office.
(6) That the wisdom of the Firm requiring all collectors to be guaranteed be emphasized.
The Auditors will continue to make periodical examination of pass books with ledgers, which in the past has not called for any special comment.
The General Manager does not consider it necessary to suggest any further alterations.
RESOLVED:- That the foregoing report of the General Manager be approved, and the action taken in asking that certain requirements should be complied with by the Officials at the Bournville Works Branch be confirmed.
The General Manager also informed the Sub-Committee that Mrs W L Carnall, a depositor, had made a postal application for withdrawal of monies, and enclosed a pass book with entries made by someone who was not an official of the Bank. Such entries did not represent the true state of the account, and it happened that the leaf containing the original entries had been abstracted from the pass book. A letter received that morning from Mrs Carnall indicated why she had acted as stated above, and she asked for lenient consideration of the matter.
RESOLVED:- That the matter be left with the General Manager to deal with as he may consider best in view of the circumstances.
Finance and House Purchase Sub-Committee - Monday, October 11th 1926
On Minute 179 (Mrs Carnall - entries in pass-book) the General Manager reported that he had seen Mrs Carnall. The account had now been closed and the deposits transferred to the account of the husband.
Finance Sub-Committee - Monday, January 10th 1927
The General Manager presented the following report as to the alleged substitution for the Home Safe owned by a depositor, Mrs L Wilkes, of a Safe issued in the name of Miss J Edwards.
Report re Home Safe No. 15541 - A/c P8044 Mrs L Wilkes
and Home Safe No. 11099 - A/c P8166 Miss J Edwards
A depositor, Mrs L Wilkes, of 40 Howard Road, Kings Heath, called at the Kings Heath Branch on December 30th, bringing with her a home safe which she wished to have emptied. Mr Hodgkins noticed that the number on the safe did not agree with that on the pass book. He mentioned this to the depositor, who said that she could not understand it. On instructions from Head Office Mr Hodgkins counted the money in the safe in the presence of the depositor, and found it contained 11/4d. The depositor stated that she had put considerably more into the safe. The safe was retained at the Branch and Mrs Wilkes promised to call the next day.
The safe tendered was found to be registered in the name of Joan Edwards of 41 Howard Road, Kings Heath. On enquiry it was found that there is no such number in Howard Road.
The following morning a letter, enclosing pass book No. P8166, was received, purporting to be signed by Miss J Edwards, stating that a safe, No. 11099, issued to her had been exchanged with that of Mrs Wilkes in mistake. She stated that she would call at the branch the following morning and that she was returning Mrs Wilkes' safe direct to her. The writer of the letter, however, - on which no address was given - did not call. Mrs Wilkes called, as promised, and when Mr Hodgkins enquired she stated that she had not received the safe.
On December 31st Mrs Wilkes' husband called at Head Office, and said that he had come to the conclusion that Mrs Wilkes' step-brother, Joseph Stafford, of 464 Stratford Road, had either stolen or obtained in some way an empty safe and had exchanged it for the one on their mantelpiece, which contained a considerable sum. He further stated that this man had been committed to prison some twelve months ago.
Further investigation would rather seem to confirm Mr Wilkes' view. When the account of Joan Edwards was opened on 26th November 1926 - presumably for the purpose of obtaining a safe - the depositor did not attend and the person who brought in the appropriate form tendered the information that she was a cripple. This does not agree with the letter which was received on December 31st. The witness to the form is Sidney Edwards of 464 Stratford Road, and the writing of the signature of the witness is exactly similar to that of the J Edwards from whom came the letter on the 31st December. It seems very doubtful as to whether there is such a person as Joan Edwards, and it is possible that all the signatures appearing on the form were given by Joseph Stafford with the object of obtaining an empty safe which he could exchange for that of his step-sister, which he thought might contain a large sum of money.
January 8th, 1927
RESOLVED:- That the matter be referred to the Chairman and the General Manager with authority, in consultation with the Town Clerk, to take such action thereon as they may deem desirable.
Finance Sub-Committee - Monday, February 14th, 1927.
On Minute No 30 (substitution of Home Safe issued to Mrs L Wilkes) the General Manager reported that Mrs Wilkes, whose home safe had been taken away from her house wrongfully by a relative, had requested that no further steps should be taken in the matter.
RESOLVED:- That the request of Mrs Wilkes be complied with and that the deposit of 6/- be forfeited in respect of the lost safe.
Finance Sub-Committee - Monday, March 14th 1927
The General Manager called the attention of the Sub-Committee to a pass book No C19377 in the name of Joseph William Potts and John Woodward which showed a credit balance of £18. 0. 6d. instead of 6d. which was the correct figure. An entry of £18. 0. 0., had been made in the pass book by a person other than a Bank Official and the initials falsely entered therein. The book, with its false entry had been used to obtain a sum of £5. 0. 0. from J W Wright, Commission Agent, of 151 Green Lane, Small Heath.
RESOLVED:- That the matter be left in the hands of the General Manager to take such action as he may consider desirable thereon.
Finance Sub-Committee - Monday, May 9th 1927
With reference to the case referred to in Minute No 63 of false entries made in a Pass Book in the names of J W Potts and J Woodward, the General Manager stated that as no attempt had been made to defraud the Bank it did not appear to be a case in which the Bank could take action. He, therefore, proposed to correct the Pass Book and retain possession of same.
RESOLVED:- That the course proposed by the General Manager be approved.
Finance Sub-Committee - October 10th, 1927
The General Manager submitted particulars in the case of a depositor, Miss Margaret E Frost, where the father had deliberately altered her pass-book in order to show a sum of £31 standing to her credit, whereas the actual amount was £1. 6. 4d. It was pointed out that no attempt had been made by the father to obtain money from the Bank, and as the daughter declined to give evidence against her father, no useful purpose could be served by taking action against him.
The General Manager also submitted particulars of false entries made by Mr S W R Penwill in his pass book. No attempt had been made by Mr Penwill to obtain money from the Bank as a result of the false entries, and as he had written apologising for his action, it was decided to take no further steps in the matter.
The General Manager also submitted as a matter of interest a counterfeit treasury note which had been discovered at Aston Branch during the course of counting cash, but there was no possibility of tracing the source. He intended to pass the same on to the Police Authorities.
Finance Sub-Committee - Monday, February 13th, 1928.
The General Manager called attention to a fraudulent withdrawal from the account of A G Green (Minor) which had occurred at the Sparkbrook Branch. The Bank had been asked to prosecute the culprit but the General Manager had informed the Police that it was not for the Bank to take action in the matter.
RESOLVED:- That the action of the General Manager in the matter be confirmed.