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On Monday my next door neighbor came over and asked my wife for her signature. He said they were having a contest at work (he works at the local grocery store) that whoever got the most signatures got a $200 gift certificate. I would have thought nothing of it. He is in his late 50s/early 60s, we have lived next to him for 5 years and always been friendly. What stuck out to her was that the signature was in a plain notebook with no letterhead. After thinking about it I called the store and spoke with a manager. The manager said they would never do something like that. I spoke with him this morning and he told me the same thing he told my wife, but if I was worried he would get the paper back from his manager.

I don't think he is telling the truth, but don't want to start a big fight with my neighbor over something that could be innocent. Is there anything he can do with her signature?

Edit: I wanted to add for anyone following that I spoke with the store manager at lunch and he said under no circumstance would they do something like this. He would really like the name of the employee. I told him I would like to talk to my neighbor one more time first.

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    How is mail delivered in your area? Would your neighbor have access to an unlocked mailbox? Do you live in a locale where paper checks are still used and mailed? – Freiheit Feb 21 at 15:21
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    Its receiving checks that matters here. – Freiheit Feb 21 at 15:37
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    "...whoever got the most signatures got a $200 gift certificate". Seriously? They only need a signature? Not like, "please put your signature down to support our charity/cause/etc"? Simply a blank page with signatures? Did you ask him what the point of it was? ...Hm. – BruceWayne Feb 21 at 17:03
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    Is it possible that your neighbor is being conned to take part in somebody else's scam? In other words, that the person who asked him to collect signatures was not actually conducting a contest at their workplace, but instead was trying to obtain signatures for their own fraudulent purposes? This would be consistent with the neighbor not seeming like the sort of person to commit fraud, with the stupidity of exposing oneself as a prime suspect in such a way, and with the manager denying knowledge of the contest. – R.. Feb 21 at 21:37
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    Did he ask you to sign too when you talked about it ? I mean, that would be one more signature for him. If he didn't it looks like he was only interested in your wife's. – Aziris Morora Feb 22 at 9:54
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He COULD use the signature to forge her name on a check or a contract. Of course that would be wildly illegal. Just because she gave him the signature voluntarily (under false pretenses) doesn't mean he's authorized to sign anything in her name.

At a minimum, you should watch your bank statements and get copies of your credit report for the next few months. If checks show up on your statement that she never wrote, or if new loans show up on your credit report that you never applied for, I'd promptly get in touch with the bank and the police, and your neighbor would be a prime suspect.

It's possible that the neighbor is telling the absolute truth and you spoke to a manager who didn't happen to know anything about this contest. It's possible that the neighbor is planning a scam of one sort or another. It's possible that he has a signature fetish or something. Without knowing your neighbor, it's impossible to say.

Personally, from what you've said I wouldn't be calling the police or lawyers or anything over this at this point. It MIGHT be a scam, but it could be legitimate or something silly.

If it is a scam, it's a pretty lame one, because by asking for the signature, he made himself a prime suspect. If you do see your money disappearing somewhere, he'll be the first name you give to the police, they'll presumably investigate, and unless he was a lot more clever about hiding the money than he was about getting the signature, they'll quickly find it. Example: if $20,000 suddenly goes missing from your bank account , and the next day he pulls into the driveway in a new car, that is awfully suspicious.

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    +1 for "signature fetish" – Steve-O Feb 21 at 16:25
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    Having a copy of the signature might make the forgery better. But realistically, no one is comparing a signature on a check or a contract against some reference signature to figure out whether to cash a check. It seems odd that someone would be worried about making the forgery look better, which would only be important once you had raised a flag saying it was a forgery, and go about getting the signature in a way that makes them an obvious suspect. Of course, scammers aren't always the brightest bulbs... – Justin Cave Feb 21 at 16:43
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    @JustinCave Sure. Like banks keep "signature cards" so they can compare the signature on a check to a reference image. But do they compare for every check that comes in? I doubt it. More likely no one checks until the account owner says they never wrote this check. Maybe they compare for very large checks, I don't know. So yeah, if it's a scam where he plans to forge her signature, it's a very lame scam as he's made himself an obvious suspect. It's possible that he has some brilliant plan here that I'm not smart enough or devious enough to think of. But I doubt it. – Jay Feb 21 at 16:51
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    @Jay - Essentially all checks are cleared automatically via computers that have no access to a signature card. Unless someone is dumb enough to, say, go visit a branch in a rural area in person to cash the check and gets Eunis the 80 year old teller that knows everyone and gets suspicious enough to go into the back to pull out the physical signature card, no one is going to look at the signature before cashing the check. – Justin Cave Feb 21 at 16:59
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    "It's possible that the neighbor is telling the absolute truth and you spoke to a manager who didn't happen to know anything about this contest." The signature contest was last week. This weeks the contest is to see who can get the most credit card numbers. Next week it's ATM PINs. – Acccumulation Feb 21 at 18:21
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Lots of places have your wife's signature already. She signs greeting cards, letters, receipts, contracts, and all sorts of forms. Her signature is already out in the world. What makes this suspicious is that it's a signature with no apparent reason and an odd stated reason.

Given your comment that you live in a suburban area with an unsecured mailbox, my concern would be that your neighbor would be rifling through your mail and then copying the signature to cash checks. In the US at this time of year, I'd be specifically concerned about tax refund checks.

A more extreme, but unlikely, risk could also be some sort of contract forgery.

Comments on other answers have pointed out that these cases are all pretty weak hypothetical issues since signatures are no longer really verified against a master signature card. Further checks being cashed require an ID, so unless your older, male neighbor has a good dress-up set and a forged ID these risks seem even less probable.

I would follow up on this and just ask your neighbor how his work contest is going. Gauge his response.

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    We don't really get checks in the mail. I use an accountant to pay quarterly taxes so I don't get an sort of refund check in the mail. I spoke with him this morning and he said he would try and get the paper back for me before the weekend. He specifically said the store manager had the paper so I am going to call over lunch and see if the store manager will say anything. – tjjen Feb 21 at 15:51
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    "Lots of places have your wifes signature already." -- But not on blank sheets of paper. I think the main concern here is the neighbor writing a contract or other document on that sheet and making it seem like she agreed with whatever statements he writes. – JoL Feb 21 at 17:26
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    @JoL otoh, contracts (almost?) always have the signature on the bottom and hers was on the top of the page, and it's on notebook paper, so adding a contract below it would look very suspicious. – Kevin Feb 21 at 17:47
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    @JoL of course neither of those voids the contract per se, but the contract has to be proven valid for it to be enforceable, and looking suspicious like that would make that more difficult. – Kevin Feb 21 at 20:09
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    @JoL People could technically write contracts into the christmas cards I send then? Would they be valid? If the write it before I sign the card, yes. If after, no, and obviously so. – PyRulez Feb 21 at 21:20
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Highly related to this question

I'd post this on the LegalSE, too.

As others have suggested, your wife's signature is already out in the world. The fact that this person in particular also has it wouldn't make me any more afraid of possible forgery of her signature than normal. I would, however, be worried about her own signature being placed on a blank document.

It's seen on other stacks (workplace and legal most commonly) where people are asked to sign blank documents or documents with blank fields. The biggest risk in this case is that someone with her signature on that piece of paper can fill in the blanks however they desire and pretend as though she agreed to it (she signed it, after all).

Ask if you can add your name to the list... see how he reacts. If all he has is still just her name on a blank sheet I'd ask him to destroy the paper or call a lawyer.

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    He said he will bring the paper to me by Saturday. She signed at the top of a blank piece of notebook paper so if he filled out stuff below that it would look a little weird. – tjjen Feb 21 at 16:43
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    @tjjen well I there are no other signatures on it you can ask him why he didnt continue with the competition.... – lalala Feb 21 at 19:40
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It is likely that the neighbor did this for fraudulent purposes. So what can you do about it?

Assuming this is the US, you will need to carefully monitor your bank and credit. This person could attempt to use this signature to either open new accounts, or withdraw from existing ones. All that does not matter, if your wife did not actually sign, then it is still fraud. Use the existing tactics if something occurs:

  1. Report to the company that there is fraud on the account and take their recommended actions.
  2. File a police report.
  3. Provide that report to the company.
  4. In the unlikely event that the police follow up, press charges.

If so inclined you could call your local non-emergency police line and file a report. You can also go talk to your neighbor, but be non-confrontational. Simply ask why he did that, and that you know it was not true about the contest. See what he has to say.

Edit: Freiheit brings up an excellent point in the comments. If someone sends you a check, this neighbor could then intercept the mailed check and deposit into his own account. You may want to make sure none of your loved ones sent you such a check.

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    It is in the US, and we monitor our bank and credit closely. Nobody sends us checks we do virtually everything with direct deposit. Plus my wife doesn't work so she doesn't get checks. – tjjen Feb 21 at 15:48
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    Given that the OP checked with the store and they said that they never do things like this, assuming they're not lying to his face about it, it's not "likely" that the neighbor did this for fraudulent purposes. It's an established fact at this point. Obtaining the signature under false pretenses is itself fraudulent. The only question now is whether or not he did it for malicious purposes. – Mason Wheeler Feb 21 at 17:39
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    If you go to ask the neighbor and you live in a single-party consent jurisdiction, take along a recording device and record his response. It will be very useful evidence if he is doing something fraudulent. – R.. Feb 21 at 21:33
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    "nobody sends us checks" the danger isn't only him intercepting a check you were already expecting, but also him triggering a check (or other important document or mail item, like a new credit card) you didn't expect and then intercepting that. – dwizum Feb 22 at 13:49

protected by JoeTaxpayer Feb 22 at 13:47

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