8,000 canceled checks accidentally deposited - in highway traffic

December 8, 2005

Holly Yan


Hours before snow and sleet covered the roads Wednesday, motorists had to contend with a pre-dawn flurry of canceled checks.

A courier truck contracted by the Federal Reserve of Dallas dropped about 8,000 personal and business checks on northbound Central Expressway near Woodall Rodgers Freeway. The driver was headed to Addison Airport about 4 a.m. when the checks got away.

"His load of checks shifted somewhat, and the checks hit a mechanism on the side window," said Diane Holloway, assistant vice president of the Federal Reserve of Dallas. "The window popped, and the checks fell out the open window."

By the time the driver turned around, other vehicles had already struck the bags and boxes, littering the highway with flimsy pieces of paper. The incident closed the exit from Woodall Rodgers to northbound Central Expressway until about 7 a.m.

"One thing that worked in our favor in the recovery efforts was there was moisture on the highway and no wind," Ms. Holloway said.

Employees from the Federal Reserve, the courier company and the Texas Department of Transportation scrambled to pluck individual checks from the highway or sweep them up with a broom.

Although some checks disappeared from the scene, Ms. Holloway said she is not very concerned that the lost checks will spur identity theft.

"From our perspective, the risk of fraud being created based on canceled checks is very low," she said. "All consumers should be careful about bank statements and check them regularly."

This is the second time in four months that a truck full of checks has lost its load. In August, a truck en route to Houston from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas spilled hundreds of checks because the driver pulled away with the back door unlatched.

Several people in the Deep Ellum area picked up the checks and turned them in to authorities.

Ms. Holloway said that the Reserve's Dallas office processes about 4 million checks a day and that the two mishaps are simply coincidental.

"This is just extremely rare," Ms. Holloway said. "I think it's a run of bad luck."

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