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Fake Checks

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What Are Fake Checks?

Fake checks are checks that have been counterfeited to appear as though they are official checks, when in reality they are not. They may also refer to legitimate checks that have been altered in some way to reflect different information. Fake checks have often been used in order to perpetrate a scam or some sort of fraud. Using fake checks is illegal and can lead to severe legal punishments. Persons seeking to make purchases obtain bank account funds, or finance transactions often use fake checks. Businesses and organizations can also be found liable for check fraud. Check fraud is illegal and can also result in a civil action to cover losses.

What Are Examples of Fake Check Cases?

There are many different types of ways that people use fake checks or commit check fraud. Some of the following examples include:

  • Forging a check (i.e., using fake ID or a fake signature to authorize a check)
  • Knowingly writing checks on an account that has been closed (called "paperhanging")
  • Counterfeiting checks: This is where the check is actually fake and made by a person other than the bank for fraudulent purposes
  • Paperhanging: When a person purposely writes or reorders checks on a closed account
  • Check Kiting: When a person with multiple checking accounts will write a check in another account and withdraw a portion of that check before it becomes available by the bank before the check actually clears. 

Which Parties May Be Affected by Fake Checks?

Fake checks and check fraud can cause serious losses for many different parties, including:

  • Sellers who lose profit due to fake checks
  • Banks
  • Lending institutions
  • Insurance companies
  • Government bodies
  • Other individuals

What Are the Punishments for Using a Fake Check?

Knowingly using a fake check will usually result in misdemeanor charges (involving criminal fines and jail sentences). For fake checks that exceed a certain amount, felony charges may be brought.

Criminal charges may be avoided if the defendant was not aware that they were using a fake check, and if they weren’t intending to deceive any one. Also, penalties in sentencing for check fraud crimes are often dependent on the amount of money involved. For instance, writing a fake check for $200 will usually result in a misdemeanor charge, whereas a fake check for thousands of dollars may result in a felony. In many states, the dividing line between misdemeanor charges and felony charges is $500. Repeat offenses can also lead to greater legal penalties.

What Are Possible Defenses for the Use of Fake Checks?

There are some defenses that can be used when one faces a charge of check fraud or the use of fake checks including:

  • 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

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Fake Checks?

Fake checks can cause many different problems and legal issues. You may wish to hire a lawyer to help prevent any legal issues from arising, and to obtain representation for legal claims. Also, fraud laws may vary by state, but a qualified criminal defense lawyer will be familiar with and knowledgeable of the laws in your area.

Photo of page author Kourosh Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 11-01-2016 08:11 PM PDT

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