When most people think of robbery or theft, they often think of bank holdups and burglaries. But one of the most prevalent crimes out there is more invisible and often more costly.
Check fraud, which often results in triple and quadruple digit losses to businesses and individuals each year, is just as much a crime as a holdup scenario. So if you're a victim of a check scam, whether you’ve received a bad check, or if you’ve been made a target by a scammer who used your checks fraudulently, it's likely that you'll be able to prosecute the person responsible. To report check fraud, you must first file your lawsuit claim in the county where the check was presented, according to the Check Fraud National Center.
If you received a bad check, by filing a lawsuit you might be able to recover the amount on the bad check in addition to damage payouts up to three times the amount of your check. The amount of that extra payout, however, is usually not more than five hundred dollars plus court costs. The amount you can collect, however, is different in each state. It's important to check your state's law to be sure of what you're entitled to – and how you should proceed with your prosecution – before jumping into court.
Starting the process
To begin prosecuting the person responsible for writing you a bad check, according to the Check Fraud Center, you should hand over the original bad check to the court, a copy of both the front and back of the check, the certified mail receipt and anything else, such as notes you made or records you kept, related to the check in question. If a guilty verdict is found, the court will charge the person responsible with deposit account fraud.
Is it a felony?
Many cases of deposit account fraud are felonies. This is especially likely if the bad check was written for five hundred dollars or more. Depending on the state, a check lower than that amount can be considered a state level crime. However, if the check was drawn on an out of state bank, it doesn't matter what the amount is – it's still a felony charge.
For a successful case to be built, it's essential to prove that the person accused of fraud closed their account, didn't have a checking account in the first place, or didn't have enough funds for the check to clear.
If the check fraud included an element of forgery, prosecution is also possible if you can prove that someone made, altered, used or possessed a false signature or other false writing of legal significance, such as a forged signature or an additional zero on the amount line. Forgery cases are usually prosecuted at the state level, unless you can prove that the person was also responsible for identify theft – that the person tried forging your signature in order to assume your identity. If you can prove that, the charge can be considered a felony, punishable by prison time in addition to a hefty fine. What's more, forgery becomes a federal offense if the bad legal document has been either moved or mailed across state lines. It's also prosecuted at the federal level if the crime happened across several states. However you choose to prosecute, if you're able to prove fraud, you very well could recover your losses and start fresh.