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Bank Tests On-Line Wanted Posters Wells Fargo Takes High-Tech Approach In Bid To Nab Crooks

Sat., Nov. 30, 1996

Wells Fargo is putting the byte on criminals.

A century after earning a reputation for doggedly pursuing stagecoach robbers, the California bank is still chasing outlaws, this time via “Wanted” posters dispatched across the new frontier of the Internet.

“Wells Fargo has no tolerance for crooks. Never had. Never will,” declares the introduction to the bank’s Internet wanted posters.

A series of small photographs of suspects follows, mostly gleaned from fake driver’s licenses used in transactions. Clicking on a small photo yields a bigger picture, the price Wells Fargo has put on the suspect’s head and brief details of the crime, usually involving bad checks or other fraud.

Rewards range from $1,000 to $5,000. Tipsters can call 1-800-78-CRIME to give information anonymously.

Two pictures on the November posting are stamped with the word “Arrested.” Bank officials said they are researching whether those arrests were due to information from the Internet or more common methods.

Wells Fargo revived its wanted posters in 1991, distributing paper posters in the vicinity of unsolved crimes.

So far, the bank has put out about 100 paper posters. About 30 percent of those pictured have been arrested while 26 percent have been identified but not yet found.

“It’s a pretty successful program for this type of crime,” said Lisa Wilhelm, senior vice president and risk division manager.

The bank began putting posters on its Internet web site two months ago. There were some 5,000 visits to the poster page in October.

Wells Fargo isn’t the only outfit doing a little cyber bounty hunting. The FBI has been posting its 10 Most Wanted on the Internet since 1995.

“We looked at this as another tool … to aid in apprehension of our fugitives,” FBI spokeswoman Joyce Riggs said.

In June, the FBI’s Internet posters yielded an arrest when a 14-year-old computer buff in Guatemala recognized the picture of Leslie Isben Rogge as a family friend.

Rogge, wanted on bank robbery and other charges, turned himself in.

Although the technology is cutting edge, the Wells Fargo site harkens back to the bank’s roots in the hardscrabble days of California’s Gold Rush, including the promise, “Wells Fargo Pays to Put Them Away!”

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