Have you ever asked yourself or your friend if you can go to jail for deposing a fake check? Well, you are at the perfect place to find the answer to such a question.
Depositing a fake check, or even using a fake check to pay for anything, is a big no-no. Not only is it dishonest and harmful to whoever is on the receiving end, but it’s also a violation of federal law to deposit a fake check.
The judicial system has long since determined that it is an act of fraud.
So, can you go to jail for depositing a fake check? Yes, it is possible to go to jail for depositing a fake check if isn’t a first-time offense, depending on if law enforcement decides to throw the book at you. Whether or not you go to jail is a matter of severity and your record. It’s
Also, there’s a big difference between depositing a fake $10 check and a fake $1,000 check. It can mean the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, depending on the state where it occurred.
Fortunately, most fake check deposits are made unknowingly, so it’s not frequent that you get someone who is knowingly committing a crime by forging a fake check and attempting to enrich themselves from it.
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Is Check Fraud Different Depending On The State?
The levels that constitute what is considered a felony and what is considered a misdemeanor differ by state. The punishments also differ by state.
For instance, knowingly depositing a fake check for more than $750 is a Class 6 Felony in Indiana. In Florida, however, it’s a felony regardless of the check amount.
In Pennsylvania, you can knowingly cash a fake check all the way up to $74,999 and it will still remain a misdemeanor. One dollar more and it becomes a felony.
So not only do the laws differ by state, but they also often differ in leaps and bounds.
There isn’t an easily accessible data bank that shows the exact nature of what constitutes a misdemeanor or felony for every state.
So, if you want to determine the jail time, fines, and other criminal proceedings pursuant to check fraud violations, you’ll have to look up the individual state.
What If You Unknowingly Deposit A Fake Check?
Honestly, checks are going out with the complete takeover of wireless money transfers, online banking, and debit cards.
However, you can still get caught up depositing a fake check and even if it’s done completely unknowingly, you can still face potential consequences.
Thankfully, there shouldn’t be any legal consequences but that doesn’t mean you can’t suffer the side effects.
- You will probably have to pay back the money
- You can have your account frozen
- Damaged credit
- Overdraft fees
- Cascade effect
- Bad banking history record
Since banks are required to deposit the money into your account quickly—Expedited Funds Availability Act—it might be weeks before the check you deposit is discovered to be a fake.
By then, you could have spent all or most of the money.
The bank isn’t going to be the one that’s liable either. It’s going to be incumbent upon you to pay back the entirety of the spent money.
When the bank discovers that the check is a fake, they may react by immediately freezing your account.
So even if you have the money in your account to cover the bad check and then some, you will be unable to pay your bills, go to the grocery store, or do anything with your money until the situation is resolved.
Your credit can take a hit as well, especially if you have bills that are linked to your account through online bill pay.
If your account is frozen or emptied out to cover the costs of the bad checks, you can start racking up missed payments quickly.
Overdraft fees are also a problem, especially when most banks take out the pending payments that are the largest sums first, that way all of the little ones that keep landing will quickly send you into overdraft oblivion.
The cascade effect is what creates that overall feeling of “when it rains it pours.” The overdraft fees are rolling in, despite the fact that your account is essentially frozen.
You can’t pay the bills so you also rack up late fees on your unpaid bills.
Much like your credit score, your bank also has a banking score for you, which other banks—potential future banks pining for your money—can look into when you apply for a checking and/or savings account.
How To Avoid Depositing Or Using Fake Checks
There are some important steps that you can take to ensure that none of the above ever happens to you.
Since checks are becoming an exception rather than the rule nowadays, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea of simply cashing it, without checking its veracity.
- If you know money is owed to you from a business or personal transaction, verify that the amount on the check matches what is owed
- The issuing bank should be listed on the check so contact that bank and verify the checks authenticity first
- After you cash the check, wait a minimum of two weeks before spending the money that is deposited in your account once the check is cashed
Verifying the check with the bank that’s listed on it is an almost foolproof way to avoid trying to cash a fake check accidentally.
If the amount that you know you are owed isn’t the same amount on the check, your “bad check” radar should go up immediately.
Verifying the check with the issuing bank and waiting two weeks after the money is deposited into your account is the best combination to practice before spending any of the money resulting from it.
What Do You Do If You’ve Already Used A Fake Check?
Since cashing a fake check knowingly is the same as committing fraud, then you immediately want to notify the bank—or the receiving institution—if you find out that a check you used was a fake.
The argument can be made to contact the police and file a report immediately. You probably should, but it won’t hurt to contact the institution that currently holds the check as soon as possible.
It may seem like an awful lot of extra work, but it’s necessary to also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission, which you can do from this link.
Once you’ve done that, you should also file a report with your state’s attorney general’s office.
As aforementioned, it really does seem like a lot, especially if the value of the check wasn’t especially high.
However, fraud is fraud whether it’s $2 or $200,000, and filing the appropriate paperwork with the appropriate agencies may help prevent someone like you from going through the same thing.
It’s especially good to be proactive about filing the report as well.
The quicker your claims are processed the quicker the matter can be resolved.
All Things Considered
Check fraud is no longer a common thing, however, it does still happen.
With the advent of wireless banking, debit cards, online payment systems, wireless transfers, and online banking, physical money is well on its way out.
The best way to avoid getting caught up in it is to be vigilant and always verify a check before you cash it or deposit it with your bank.
So long as you do that and allow it time to process before spending the money, you’ll always be protected.
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