It is vital that you stress to your employees the importance of being thorough when accepting a check. If your establishment has set a policy for all customers then no one should have any reason to feel they are being treated unfairly. It is a good idea to have a "checklist" where a cashier can see it easily. It should include at least the following:
- Is it dated today? Checks must be dated the same day they're given. Post-dated checks are not prosecutable.
- Is the signature legible? Do NOT accept checks previously signed. Have them sign in your presence and compare with driver's license or other I.D.
- Is the address complete? Require a permanent street address, not a P.O. Box number unless you know the writer.
- Can you confirm identity? Every kind of I.D. can be forged. The most reliable are the ones with physical descriptions, photos, etc. If you are suspicious, ask the writer to hand you the license and while it's in your hand, ask his address and/or birth date. If it is not his license, he may be caught off guard and give the wrong information.
- Do written amounts and numbers correspond? Banks will not honor checks with discrepancies.
- Is the I.D. used recorded? Record on the check the type of I.D. and I.D. numbers as well as the clerk's initials who takes the check.
Checks to Avoid
The following checks usually will not be prosecuted as "hot" checks:
- A temporary check; without numbers;
- A check marked "refer to maker," "drawn against uncollected funds" or "unable to locate account";
- A post-dated check;
- A stop-payment check;
- A check on an out-of-state bank;
- A two-party check;
- A check more than six (6) months old;
- A check for less than five dollars ($5.00);
- A check for which partial payment has been received;
- A check given in exchange for a returned check;
- A check which does not identify who accepted it;
- A check received in the mail;
- A check not passed within this county;
- A check not presented to bank within 30 days of issuance; and
- A check for which no 10-day notice was given. It is very important to get the information listed above.
Clues for Detecting Bad Checks
- Be careful of low series numbers on personal checks. About 85% of all uncollected "hot checks" are new account numbers between 101 and 150.
- Check the finish of the black magnetic computer numbers on the bottom. Magnetic ink is very dull -- never shiny.
- Check the first four magnetic numbers to the left of the account number. Each area of the state has its own bank routing number -- learn yours.
- Look for at least one perforated edge. All checks except government or computer produced will be perforated.
- Beware of photocopied checks. The best sign of a photocopied check is shiny, tacky, uneven letters.
- Also beware of photocopied "color" on multi-color checks from large corporations.
Procedure when a Check is returned
- There are certain procedures you must follow before this office will accept a returned check for prosecution:
- The check must be presented to the bank for payment, even if you know it will not be honored, and stamped by the bank as to the reason for dishonorment.
- You must send written notification to the check writer informing him or her of the reason the check was not honored.
- The written notice must be sent certified, return receipt requested.
- The following sample letter sets out the information which must be included:
"Dear Mr./Mrs. Doe: Your check #000 dated June 20, 1995, in the amount of $000.00 given for the stereo you purchased on the same date has been returned by the State Bank marked "insufficient funds" (or other reason marked on the check by the bank. This is a demand for payment in full for a check or order not paid because of a lack of funds or insufficient funds. If you fail to make payment in full within 10 days after the date of receipt of this notice, the failure to pay creates a presumption for committing an offense, and this matter may be referred for criminal prosecution.
- Be sure to keep a copy of this letter.
- If, after 10 days the check has not been paid, you must personally bring it to this office and fill out a Worthless Check Information Form and furnish the following:
- The original check with the bank flag or notation showing the reason it was not honored;
- The signed return receipt from the certified letter or the letter (unopened) marked refused or unclaimed;
- A copy of your letter;
- The name, address and phone number of the person who accepted the check and who can identify the maker;
- Specific identification of maker such as driver's license number,
date of birth, and physical description.
(It will be necessary for you to supply this information on a form when you come in to the office.)
Procedure when the check is turned over to the Prosecutors Office
When you bring in a check, it will be logged and a search made to see if the maker has any other hot check offense pending. If there is, yours will be combined with the one(s) previously filed to expedite your restitution. If not, this office usually notifies check writers that a case is about to be filed against them. If they do not make restitution and pay the prosecutor's processing fee, prosecution procedures will be started. Repeat offenders are required to attend a "Hot Check" Class.
The Hot Check Fee Act was passed by the Legislature to defray some of the prosecution expense and require the hot check writers to help bear the cost of their misdeeds. After filing a case, there can be the additional expenses of a fine, court costs, and incarceration.
This pamphlet is intended to explain the importance of your role in getting the necessary information to enable this office to control the check problem and get you the restitution you deserve.
If you have any questions or problems, please contact my staff or me. We will be glad to help you in any way we can.