Opening Procedures for Check Cashing Businesses

April 20, 2017

As a check casher, you face financial risk everyday. A big part of your business plan is devoted to detecting and preventing financial fraud to protect your check cashing business. You have a clear check cashing process that you use to vet new customers and monitor potentially suspicious activity. As you record information and file reports, there is another type of risk that deserves the same level of careful preparation.
Your check cashing business is a financial institution, which makes it a potential target for criminals looking to rob a business of cash. Like your financial compliance risk, this threat can be monitored, reduced, and managed. The key to preventing a robbery is to stay alert and follow a safe plan for opening and closing your business each day. Pay attention to your surroundings and vigorously adhere to your procedures – the worst thing you can do is become lax in your routine.

General Opening Procedure for Check Cashing Businesses

The most important thing to remember when you open your check cashing business each day is to stick to your procedure and stay alert. If a criminal decides to rob your business, they will likely case the building and make note of your general opening and closing routine. If they have watched you, they will know if you are typically alert or if you often seem tired or distracted. By staying alert, you will send the signal that you are on top of your game – and maybe even deter a robbery all together.
When you create your own opening procedure, take into account the risks and obstacles that are unique for your location or specific business. This could include how your business is situated on its lot, visibility issues like hedges or other blind spots, location in a high crime area, or having a large cash vault and high volume business. Your opening and closing procedures should be in writing and you should review them with all new employees. Every employee, new or old, should review the procedures once a quarter.
Here is a basic example of an opening procedure for a check cashing business:

  1. Schedule two employees to arrive at roughly the same time to open the business each morning. Each employee should arrive separately.
  2. Upon arriving at the business, each employee should drive a circle around the premises to scan for suspicious activity such as parked cars or loitering individuals.
  3. The first employee should enter the building and disengage the alarm while the second employee waits in their car.
  4. Upon entering, the employee should check the doorways and windows for signs of tampering or forced entry, especially if any unknown cars without drivers are parked in the lot.
  5. As the first employee enters and inspects the building, the second employee should wait outside until they receive the “all clear” signal. The second employee should continue to scan the premises for suspicious activity.
  6. When the first employee gives the “all clear” signal, the second employee may enter. During this time, the first employee will act as the look out for the second employee to ensure safe entry.
  7. Create an agreed upon time for the first employee to enter the building, disengage alarm, inspect the premises, and give the “all clear” to the second employee. If the first employee fails to signal the “all clear” during the specific time frame (ex: 10 minutes), the second employee should immediately call the police. The second employee should not enter the building. Instead, they should stay outside in their car to wait for help to arrive.
  8. If at any point during the opening procedure, either employee feels unsafe or notices an indication of danger, the employees should retreat to their cars and call the police.

This outline will help give you an idea of the minimum requirements for a safe opening procedure. You should create your own procedure in conjunction with state licensing requirements and your insurance agent to fully understand your risk and the implications of your procedure. If you would like to discuss what this looks like for your business, reach out to NCC’s customer service team directly. All of NCC’s check cashing clients receive bank accounts, compliance systems, business processes, and innovative technology to protect their businesses from risk.

Tips for Preventing Robbery at Your CCO

You can prepare both your physical business location and your employees to prevent robbery. The key to setting up your physical location for success is to limit objects or practices that reduce visibility around and inside your business. To do this, you can 1) keep the inside of your business well lit at all times, 2) shine spotlights on entryways, 3) keep windows and doors clear of signs and other obstructions, and 4) put your cash register in view of a window or door, rather than tucked out of sight, so that police can see it during patrols.
In addition to maximizing visibility, you can install cameras and an alarm system. Make sure to set a schedule to periodically check your camera and alarm system and ensure they are working properly. In the event of a robbery, having a detailed description of the suspect(s) is vital to help police catch the criminal(s). To assist in this, you can mark the edge of your main entrances with measuring tape to help you gather accurate height information in event of robbery.
Inside your business, you should also set-up a check cashing process that promotes safety. It is important to never “flash the cash” and to use a drop safe when possible. By keeping cash out of view and minimizing cash on hand, you give robbers less incentive to target your business. When transporting cash for deposits or picking up cash on a cash run, vary the time of day and route you take to the bank. When possible, make cash runs in pairs and hide the cash bag in a plain backpack or grocery bag.
Beyond your regular training and detailed processes, you can take a few more steps set your employees up for success. First, always open and close your business in pairs. Never have an employee open or close alone as this puts them at increased risk. Second, advise your employees to trust their instincts. If something feels “off” it probably is. Finally, encourage your employees to greet each customer with eye contact and conversation. Your employees can make note of the check cashing customer’s appearance, while discouraging hesitant robbers or thieves with their firm and direct approach.

Red Flags to Watch For at Your Check Cashing Locations

As we mentioned above, if something doesn’t feel right, you should trust your instincts. While a robbery can happen when you least expect it, there are some common red flags you can spot.
Red flags to watch for around your business location(s):

  1. Unusual vehicles parked near business during opening or closing times
  2. People wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather (ex: a long heavy coat in summer)
  3. Nervous customers who avoid eye contact, seem sweaty, or otherwise uncomfortable
  4. New customers asking about your business (the volume of checks you process, the number of employees you have, etc.)

If you see a suspicious person, notify the police immediately and make note of their appearance, associates, car make and model, and license plate if possible. In addition to your opening and closing procedures, every check cashing business should also develop a robbery response procedure. This will detail instructions for employees in the event of a robbery.  As a part of your risk management strategy, cultivate a professional environment and make sure your employees know that safety is top of mind – in addition to sales.
Learn more about NCC’s commitment to risk management and compliance.

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