Every year local businesses are harmed by check fraud. When such instances arise in your business, you have several options to address the matter, including working with check recovery and/or other collection agencies or working with law enforcement. If you wish to pursue your remedies through law enforcement, there is information and procedures of which you should be aware which will provide law enforcement with the evidence necessary to pursue a check fraud charge. This notice will provide some basic guidelines for business owners which will allow business owners and law enforcement to work together to protect local businesses and prosecute offenders. Although the investigation and prosecution of check fraud can place a strain upon the resources of law enforcement, there are certain steps that can be taken by business owners to alleviate the strain and assist in the prosecution of check fraud.
In order for the Lincoln County Attorney’s Office to prosecute a bad check, the following conditions must be met:
- The check was received within the geographical boundaries of Lincoln County, in exchange for goods or services. It was deposited in a bank and presumed good at the time of acceptance.
- The check was returned, unpaid, due to insufficient funds or a closed account. (Stop payment checks will be evaluated on a case by case basis.)
- You must be able to document attempts to notify the check writer of the bad check and allow the person at least 5 days to pay the check. Generally this requirement is satisfied by a letter, sent by certified U.S. Mail, to the address listed on the check. Sample Check Fraud Document
- The check must be submitted to the County Attorney’s Office within 120 days from the date on the check.
- A photo identification number, such as a driver’s license number or state identification card number was recorded at the time of the transaction. (You must actually see the photo identification - do not allow the check writer to merely tell you the number). It is strongly recommended that such information be recorded on the front of the check as bank stamps may cover information recorded on the back of a check.
- The business needs to be able to identify the employee that accepted the check. (You may want to have the employee that accepted the check write their initials on it so that you can identify who received the check).
If all of these conditions are met, the Lincoln County Attorney’s Office will evaluate the case and determine a course of action. The factors that will be evaluated in determining how to proceed include the existence of proof of intent to defraud (as opposed to an honest mistake), the availability of bank records, the criminal record of the check writer (past check fraud convictions, etc.) and the ability of the victim to identify the check writer. Depending on the circumstances, the County Attorney’s Office may file criminal check fraud charges against the check writer, offer the check writer the opportunity to pay restitution for the check(s) in lieu of criminal prosecution, or may decline to take action if necessary evidence is not available or if the matter is deemed to be non-criminal in nature.
Please note that the Lincoln County Attorney’s Office will not be able to prosecute in the following instances:
- The check is a post dated check.
- Both parties knew that there were insufficient funds in the account at the time of the transaction.
- It is an out-of-state (reviewed on case by case basis), two party, government or payroll check.
- The identity of the check writer is unknown. (No photo identification recorded and victim is unable to identify the check writer).
- No amount, date or signature on the check.
- If the check has not been processed through your bank.
- The check involves an extension of credit or payment on an account.
Hopefully these guidelines will allow local businesses and law enforcement to work together to combat check fraud more effectively and efficiently. We look forward to working with you in the future. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the Lincoln County Attorney’s Office.