Before data breaches and cybercrimes, there was Stanley Mark Rifkin, a computer consultant-turned-criminal who pulled off one of the first known computer-aided bank robberies in the late ’70s. In fact, it was considered the largest bank robbery in the United States at the time, and the bank was totally unaware of his scam.

Rifkin operated a computer consulting firm out of his apartment in California’s San Fernando Valley. He had numerous clients, including a company that serviced the computers at Los Angeles-based Security Pacific National Bank, which would later merge with Bank of America.

Located in a room on the bank’s D-level was a wire transfer station that allowed the bank to move money around the world. Like other banks at the time, Security Pacific guarded against wire theft by using a numerical code to authorize transactions, and that code changed daily.

In October 1978, Rifkin entered Security Pacific, where employees recognized him as a computer technician. He casually took an elevator to the bank’s wire transfer room, where authorities would allege he learned the day’s code as well as the bank officer’s identification numbers, which were also needed to order a transfer. Later, after the close of business, Rifkin called the room, used the code numbers, and ordered $10.2 million to be wired to a bank in New York for transfer to a Swiss bank account.

Nothing about the transfer appeared to be out of the ordinary. In fact, Security Pacific was completely unaware of the theft until FBI agents notified bank officials about their investigation.

No, I’m not going to make this month’s column a lesson on compliance, although there are plenty of applicable lessons to be learned from Rifkin’s story. See, reading about this bank robbery got me thinking about the little things that happen (or don’t happen) in our daily routine that often lead to bigger problems down the line. Hey, we’re all human, but if we can whittle those potential issues down by conscientiously studying why and how these things occur, we can head off most problems before they happen.

Now tell me if these irritations sound familiar:

  • Forgetting a signature on the retail installment sale contract (RISC) and realizing the day before the end of the month the customer doesn’t live nearby.
  • Failing to proof the buyer’s order and discovering after the fact that the salesperson either guessed the vehicle’s mileage or used what was on the inventory list instead of taking it directly from the odometer.
  • Customer is looking at two identical new trucks differentiated by color only, you paper the wrong one, and it gets funded.
  • The used-car department misses options in the bookout section, thereby affecting the value and the loan-to-value ratio.
  • You discover the customer hasn’t even driven the car he or she is trying to buy.
  • You fail to monitor your forms inventory and then discover you’re out of the one you need to finish a deal.
  • You deliver a car without collecting stips. When you finally get them, the funder says they’re unacceptable. Making matters worse, you discover there’s no signed bailment agreement.
  • After delivering a vehicle, you realize you used the wrong vehicle service contract or maintenance program.
  • You forget to vet a cash customer through OFAC at the time of sale.
  • You fail to issue a privacy notice.
  • You fail to proofread the credit application.
  • You discover the APR you used on the RISC was below your wholesale approval.

I realize there are some electronic aides — such as erating, econtracting and DMS-generated menus — that can help prevent some of this. But if your store isn’t using these solutions, you must up your game to catch these potential issues.

Of course, the goal is to be error-free. At the very least, try to minimize these mistakes so they don’t impede business. The challenge is having enough time to catch everything.

Hey, Security Pacific thought its process was acceptable, but history proved otherwise. Good luck and keep closing.

Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected].


Marv Eleazer
Marv Eleazer

Finance Director

Marv Eleazer is the finance director for Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga.

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Marv Eleazer is the finance director for Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga.

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