Check fraud occurs when a person seeks to make a purchase, obtain bank account funds, or finance transactions using a check that is fake or counterfeited.
There are four types of common check fraud:
- Forgery: a person steals another's check, endorses the check, and then, using false I.D., cashes the check. Another form of forgery is when an employee issues an employer's check without authorization from the employer.
- Paperhanging: a person purposely writes a check or reorders checks on a closed account (their own account or another's).
- Check Kiting: a person with multiple checking accounts will write a check for an amount greater than the balance in its corresponding account, and then deposit the check in another account, and immediately withdraw whatever portion of that check is made available by the bank before the check clears in an effort to defraud the bank.
- Counterfeiting and Alteration: when a check is fabricated using sophisticated computer technology; or when a check is altered using chemicals to remove/modify the handwriting on a check.
All of the above listed methods of check fraud are considered crimes in every state. Some, like check kiting, are considered federal crimes and can carry penalties up to a maximum fine of $1,000,000 and a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.
What Can I Do If I Have Been the Victim of Check Fraud?
Contact the police as well as your bank and advise them of your situation. In addition, you may be able to sue the perpetrator of the crime in civil court to regain any of your stolen funds, so be sure to consult a lawyer.
What Are the Penalties for Check Fraud?
A person who has been convicted for check fraud can face some significant penalties:
- Felony or misdemeanor
- Jail or prison sentence
- Probation of 1 year or more
- Fines ranging from $1,000-$10,000
- Restitution to compensate any victims that suffered loss from the fraud
What Are Some Legal Defense for Check Fraud?
There are a number of different legal defenses that may be raised to defend a check fraud charge:
- Lack of Knowledge: The defendant did not know that the check was false.
- Lack of Intent to Defraud: The defendant did not have the criminal intent to deceive anyone and honestly believed he had authority to make changes to a document or could sign it.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Accused of Check Fraud?
Contact a criminal lawyer immediately to be advised of your rights, your defenses, and the best way of navigating though the complicated legal system. A lawyer will be familiar with the law that governs your case and help you mount an effective defense.