LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Timothy C. Nies | Sep 30, 2011

Fraudulent, Worthless or Bad Checks in Florida - Tips to Protect You and Your Business

This article is written to provide readers with an overview of Florida law regarding worthless and fraudulent checks. This article is for general information only and should not be considered legal advice. Under the laws of Florida, any check returned from a bank and stamped or labeled “NSF" (Non-Sufficient Funds), “No Such Account", Account Not Found", “Account Closed", or “Closed Account" are worthless checks, or commonly known as “bad checks".

The most common complaint to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is the receipt of fraudulent checks. Under Florida law, passing a fraudulent check is a violation of Florida Statute Section 831.02 (“Uttering a Forged Instrument"). Specifically, the Statute states: “Whoever utters and publishes as true a false, forged or altered record, deed, instrument or other writing mentioned in Florida Statute Section 831.01knowing the same to be false, altered, forged or counterfeited, with intent to injure or defraud any person, shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree" The maximum sentence is five years in jail.

Being on the receiving end of a bad check is frustrating, to say the least. Oftentimes, bad checks cause those who deposited the worthless check to incur bank fees. This article discusses methods of spotting worthless check and methods to protect you or your business from criminals passing worthless or fraudulent checks.

Pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 832 (“Violations Involving Checks or Drafts"), bad checks are either first-degree Misdemeanors or third degree felonies. Conviction of a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida may result in up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. A third-degree felony may result in up to five years in a Florida prison and a $5,000 fine.

Here are a few tips to follow when receiving a check:

Florida checks vs. out-of-state checks: It is much more difficult to prosecute and collect out-of-state checks.

Carefully look over the check: Make sure that the signature matches the name on the check. Look for alterations to the check. Watermarks on a check are a sign of a fraudulent check as watermarks are not supposed to be seen under normal, natural light. Consider turning down checks with low check numbers (under 500). Do not accept any checks, which appear to be altered or completely free of at least one perforated edge. Dirty or smeared checks are a sign of fraudulent checks. Checks with driver’s license numbers already written on the front of the check are a common indication that the check is fraudulent. If the check appears suspicious in any way, call the bank listed on the check.

Post-dated checks: Do not accept checks that are post-dated as it will be more difficult to prosecute.

Third-party checks: Do not accept third-party checks. Meaning, checks given to you by someone other than the person listed on the check.

Always ask for photo identification, such as a driver’s license: Make sure that the signature on the identification matches that on the check. Look and feel the picture on the license and turn down the check if the license seems abnormal in any way. We suggest that you include on the check the sender’s address and telephone number, date of birth, and name of his/her employer.

If your senses cause you to be suspicious, it is better to request that the person or business providing you with a check to obtain a bank check from a trusted bank. Even then you should inspect the check. if you have been the victim of a worhtless or fraudulent check, please visit our law firm website for more information.

Additional resources provided by the author

For more information on worthless or bad checks, please call your local police department or the Florida Attorney General's Office at 1-866-966-7226.

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