That’s why we have always recommended, whenever possible, if someone is doing something generous in front of cameras. to use the real check, if a check is needed. Now, maybe a handshake has to do, after a story we just heard about one of our clients.
Let this be a warning to PR and TV news people alike. Showing a real check on TV can lead to fraud. Really.
Recently, one of our clients had an opportunity to help a charity that had been stiffed out of funds that would have payed for a community program that parents and kids were counting on. After seeing a story about this on TV, an executive at the client company contacted us to say they wanted to help. By the end of that day, this good corporate citizen had cut a check and the TV station that had done the story wanted to do a follow-up with the company presenting the check to the charity on camera. Good PR, right? We thought so.
We learned that at least two viewers were able to get information from the close-up of the check from TV and used it to try to pay their bills. The client tells us someone tried to pay a DirecTV bill and someone tried to pay an American Express bill with their bank routing number. A quick-thinking employee and the executive whose idea it was to do the right thing figured out quickly that this was fraud based on the TV story and worked things out with the bank.
To PR types: your clients’ good intentions could cost them. It’s time to think about alternatives to both the oversized check and the real one. To news types: maybe just show the checks in wider shots?