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What Is a Bad Check?

Writing a bad check is a crime.
Bad checks are written from an account that does not have sufficient funds to cover the draft.
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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2014
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A bad check, also referred to as a bounced check or a rubber check, refers to a check that is written on a checking account that does not have sufficient funds to cover it. The check is then returned and marked "insufficient funds," and the check "bounces," meaning the bank does not pay out on the check. Writing a bad check is a crime, and can be considered a misdemeanor or even a felony depending on the amount of the check, the frequency with which bad checks have been written, and one's criminal history.

Writing a bad check is considered to be a form of fraud. Banks may press charges at the first offense, though this practice is somewhat rare. It can be considered a federal offense, which may be punishable with sizable fines or a sentence in prison. Even if none of these things happen, though, writing bad checks can still cost the account holder a great deal of money in overdraft fees, not to mention a damaged reputation.

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Overdraft fees are fees charged to the account holder after he or she writes a bad check. Each check that is written with insufficient funds in the account will be charged an overdraft fee; this fee generally ranges from $30 US Dollars (USD) to $50 USD, but it varies in different financial institutions. As these overdraft fees are charged on the account, the account balance will continue to decrease, potentially causing even more checks to bounce. This can cause fees and bad checks to exponentially increase.

There are ways to prevent writing a bad check on a checking account. Some people find that keeping a "buffer" in the checking account can help them to stay within the limits. For instance, one might keep an extra $1,000 USD in the checking account, but not write this amount in the checkbook. Then, even if funds in the checkbook dip below the balance, there will still be that extra $1,000 USD to prevent checks from bouncing.

Of course, the best way to prevent writing a bad check is to keep a careful record of one's checking account. Be sure to write down every deposit and withdrawal, including ATM withdrawals or automatic debits for paying bills. It is easy to call the bank, or check online, to get an accurate account balance if one is unsure. Then, when the bank statement comes every month, sit down and look it over, matching the checkbook balance up to the statement to be sure there are no transposition errors or other mistakes.

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Discuss this Article

mazhur
Post 3

My bank paid a cross-payees account cheque for a handsome amount which I had given to a person as a receipt, to be substituted by a fresh cheque from me after due performance of contract by him and which was 'claused' or marked on its forefront with the words reading "permission must be taken prior payment/submission."

I complained to the bank and claimed the amount back from it, but the bank responded by stating that the writing was superfluous and had not been counter signed by me.

From this it can be inferred that if the said note was not signed by me, then in that case the cheque was irregular and shouldn't have been paid by the bank. It also means that had I countersigned the note, the bank would have paid the cheque. I think in both cases, the bank admittedly did wrong by paying an irregular or invalid cheque. Moreover, the cheque took more than a week to be processed, which is normally too long a float time in these days of fast internet communication.

Please let me have your valued comments on this so that I can lodge a formal claim plus damages on the defaulting negligent bank.

jonrss
Post 2

What are the laws about bad check restitution? Do the people who pass bad checks have to pay actual money for the goods and service they stole? I would rather get money back than see someone go to jail. Not that they shouldn't be punished, but if a guy is sitting in a jail cell, that doesn't help me get back the $500 in stereo equipment that he walked out of the store with.

ZsaZsa56
Post 1

It is a lot harder to pass a bad check these days than it used to be. Most stores have technology on site that will tell them if a check is good or bad before the transaction is over. It still happens from time to time, but it is not nearly as prevalent as it once was.

I am saying this not as a check passer but as the owner of a store. Back in the 60s and 70s we used to deal with bad checks all the time. It was a real scourge and we were constantly working with the police or the courts to see that the perpetrators of check fraud were brought to justice. But now it is an issue that comes up maybe once a year, if that.

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