I work at a bank, and this occurred about four years ago. We had a customer come in slightly upset: someone had broken into his car and stolen only a few checks from his checkbook, and had immediately gone on a spending spree at nearby grocery stores (the kind where they use your check to pull the funds out immediately, identical to a debit card).
Our manager immediately refunded the lost money and put a "Warning" on his account telling us not to cash any check numbered from 1001 to 1010: the numbers of the stolen checks. He was assured that any more money he lost would be refunded. He didn't want to close the account (which is what I would have recommended) because it takes a while to get new checks and cards, and he didn't want to go through all the trouble.
Not two days later, we have what's called a Non-Customer walk in (meaning they don't have an account at that bank, but still have transactions to run, most often cashing checks). I'm currently covering for several coworkers lunches, so I'm the only Teller covering the lobby. He walks up to me, hands me a check and his I.D., and tells me he wants to cash it. Alright, cool, let me just check th--whoa, wait a minute. This is a check that was stolen from that customer a few days ago!
I doubled and triple checked my suspicions, and I was rewarded with numerous red flags:
• The check number was within the stolen range (1001 to 1010)
• The signature was clearly forged, and was easily the most damning evidence
• The amount of the check was for an absurdly high amount based on the "Babysitting Job" description scrawled down in the memo line; the check was for $3000.
We, the tellers, had been instructed to call the police in the event that anyone ever came in an presented a forged check (and also had strong reason to believe that the person in front of us had done the forging). The dude in front of me was covered from head to toe with tattoos, smelled like an ashtray, dressed in the dirtiest clothes you can imagine, and had the words "Fuck Off" tattooed on his right forearm in very large, very easy-to-read letters.
In other words, I was calling bullshit on him cashing a $3000 check based on his babysitting work.
So, I needed to call the police, but how? There was no way this guy would stick around the second I picked up the phone and accused him of stealing a check, not to mention the fact that this guy actually looked fairly dangerous. Normal protocol said that I "need a manager to verify the check," at which point I would go to the back room and call the cops--and stay back there, leaving the customer at the counter getting frustrated and suspicious.
So I improvised: I started angrily hitting the spacebar on my keyboard and muttered loud enough for the thief to hear me, "Come on, not again." When he looked inquiringly at me, I scowled and said, "Sorry, my system just froze up. We've been having trouble with this stupid thing all day. Let me see if I can get someone else to do it."
I gave a for-Christ's-sake-just-go-with-it look at my only other coworker, who fortunately picked up on what I was doing immediately and complained that, sure enough, her system went down too. I looked back up at the thief and apologized in a half-laugh, half-scowl that his wait would be a few minutes because our entire network had just gone down.
He totally bought it, even going so far as to say something like, "Damn computers, they never work when you need them too, hahaha!"
I agreed, and told him I'd go back in the back room to get his cash ready, if nothing else.
I called the police, explained the situation to them, and they assured me a cop was on his way to our location, fast. I hung up and called our corporate office and let THEM know what was happening, and they assured me that I was doing the right thing and that they were sending the bank lawyer to our location ASAP, and to "be safe." I then called our branch manager (who was on lunch at this time) and then the customer and let them both know what was going on and that we'd keep them updated.
Once I was done with this stuff--I walked back out to the counter and walked right back up to the thief, apologized again for his wait, assuring him that we had our IT department working nonstop on the situation, and would he like a free soda to compensate for the wait? He like that, so I went and got him one. 5 minutes later (and I was sweating bullets at this point, my body was swimming in adrenaline), the cop walked in, directly behind the thief, who was completely unaware of the whole situation. I made eye contact with the cop, nodded, and then nodded again towards the thief.
Long story short: the thief turned around and completely went limp at the sight of cop. He admitted to stealing the checks almost instantly and was promptly placed into handcuffs right there in our lobby. Our bank lawyer (who was on the phone with the customer who'd had his checks stolen) and branch manager walked in a few minutes later after that. After the thief was hauled off, I was told I had done well by upper management.
The best part? Saying that our system was down became the company-wide go-to excuse whenever tellers needed to stall for time in order to call the police.