Altered Check Liability Lawyers

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An alteration might be loosely described as any change of the writing on a check made without the authority of the drawer or of any other party to the check, such as an endorser. A material alteration may consist of raising or otherwise changing the amount of the check, changing the name of the payee, or making other changes, such as to the date or to the name of the drawee or payor bank. In most cases, checks are altered for fraudulent purposes.

What Changes don't constitute Alterations?

In general, alterations that do not change the contract are not material (some names, amounts, dates, etc). For example because of the widely followed rule that words control numbers on ambiguously written checks, when one changes the amount of a check in figures, without changing the amount in words, there is no alteration.

Who has the Burden of Showing that there is an Alteration on a Check?

The law generally places on the person seeking to avoid liability on the instrument the burden of proving that the instrument has been materially or improperly altered. Many courts suggest that the burden might be the other way around where there is an alteration. That is, where there is visible evidence of alteration a bank or holder could not claim to not be aware of the alteration.

What are my Rights if I have unknowingly received an Altered Check?

A person taking an altered check for value, in good faith, and without notice of the alteration may enforce rights according to the original terms of the instrument.

What is the Liability of the Bank for Paying an Altered Check?

The predominant law throughout the country provides that a bank that in good faith makes a payment to a holder may charge the indicated account of the bank's customer according to the original terms of the altered check. In other words, if a check originally issued for $25 is raised to $2,500 and is paid in the raised amount, the bank may charge the drawer's account, but only for the original $25 amount.

Should I Contact a Lawyer regarding my Altered Check Issues?

If you are being sued for altering a check, or you believe your bank has processed a check that has been clearly and wrongfully altered you should contact a lawyer immediately. Both have serious consequences on the criminal and civil sides of the law.

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Last Modified: 05-30-2012 02:19 PM PDT

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