What happens if I deposit a bad check

By Izzy M
Modified on May 2, 2023
what happens if i deposit a bad check

There may come a time when you deposit a check that later bounces. You may stressfully ask, “What happens if I deposit a bad check?” Do not panic! Here’s everything you need to know about bad checks and what you can do about the situation.

Bad Check vs. Fraudulent Check

A bad check, or bounced check, is a check that bounces due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account. A check typically bounces when the payer does not have enough money in their bank account to cover the cost of the check. However, a check can also bounce due to fraud or a bank error. 

A fraudulent check, also known as a fake check, is used by someone intentionally trying to deprive a person or entity of money. Fraudulent checks can look like personal checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, etc. Regular people, and even bank employees, unintentionally fall victim to a fake check scam every year. The good news is that there are red flags you can spot. 

Types of Fake Check Scams

Fake check scams affect people every year, and victims typically lose thousands of dollars! These scams work because fake checks often look real. Read about some common types of fake check scams below.

Overpayment Scam

An overpayment scam is when someone attempts to pay you more than necessary to receive the difference after you deposit the fake check. This scam typically occurs when you sell items online. The fake check bounces a few days after you cash a check at the ATM or bank. The best way to avoid an overpayment scam is to refuse a check for more than your selling price. 

Prize Scam 

Scam artists will attempt to contact you about a sweepstakes prize you have won. You will receive a fake check in the mail, but the scam artist will ask you to send money to cover the cost of taxes, shipping, and processing fees. You will not have to pay anything out of pocket if you have won a legitimate sweepstakes prize. 

Car Wrap Decal Scam

There are legitimate businesses that will pay you to advertise using car wraps. However, these types of companies will not charge you installation fees. But a scam artist will try to convince people to deposit fake checks and send money to installers that do not exist. 

Mystery Shopping Scam

Mystery shopping is a legitimate way to make extra money. Still, there are scam artists that pose as mystery shopping companies. A scam artist will ask you to deposit a fake check and then wire money back to cover taxes or processing fees. A legitimate company will not charge you for work. Keep an eye out for suspicious fees and guarantees of a lot of money. 

What if I Deposit a Bad Check Into My Checking Account?

When you deposit a check into your checking or savings account, your bank has to make your funds available within a few days. However, most financial institutions will place a hold on a check deposit to ensure it clears. Bank customers must wait about two business days to access their deposited funds. 

Keep in mind that a cleared check does not mean it is a good check. You may find out weeks later that you deposited a bounced check. If you deposit a bad check into your checking account, you may face the following consequences: 

Overdraft Fees

You will likely have to pay your bank an overdraft fee for a bounced check. According to the Forbes Advisor 2020 checking account fee survey, the average cost of an overdraft fee is $24.38. However, banks and credit unions can charge more than $29! 

Negative Account Balance

If a deposited check bounces, the account owner is responsible for paying that spent money back to a bank. Financial institutions urge customers to be wary of cashing a check if they do not personally know the check writer. If you don’t have enough money in your bank account when the funds of a bounced check are withdrawn, you can get a negative balance! Negative balances will incur overdraft fees. 

Financial Risk

Suppose you accidentally fell victim to a bounced check scam. If you deposited a bogus check and then sent money to a scam artist, you face losing a lot of money. You could face a significant financial loss since most bank policies do not honor a bad check.

Depending on the situation, multiple bounced checks may result in a frozen or closed account. Bank accounts are frozen when a bank employee suspects illegal or suspicious activity. And if you have too many bounced checks or too many overdrafts, your bank account can be closed. 

What if I Write a Bad Check?

Now that you know the consequences of depositing a bad check, you may wonder what happens if you accidentally write a bounced check. Below are some of the repercussions of giving out bounced checks. 

Criminal Charges

If an account holder writes a personal check that bounces due to insufficient funds, they’re at the mercy of the payee. The check recipient has the legal right to sue you and take you to civil court. If you are found guilty, a judge will order you to pay the check amount and additional fines. 

Reporting to Consumer Reporting Agencies

Suppose a person does not make smart financial choices and constantly writes bad checks. In that case, the bank can report a customer’s finances to consumer-reporting agencies. For example, ChexSystems is a financial credit bureau that collects banking information. 

If you want to open a new checking account, the bank will likely look up your checking account history. An entry in ChexSystems will remain for up to five years, and it could prevent you from getting an account with a financial institution. But you may still be able to qualify for an online cash advance since most creditors review your credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.

How To Avoid Getting Bad Checks

If you want to avoid the hassle and stress of a bounced check, you can take steps to avoid violating your deposit account agreement. 

Ask for a Certified Check

You need to know that a certified check is a paper check issued by a bank or credit union. This type of payment guarantees the check writer’s account has sufficient money, so you can rest easy knowing the payment won’t bounce. Certified checks are more secure than personal checks, and the bank or retailer can replace lost or damaged checks. 

Ask for a Money Order

A money order is a paper check issued by a bank or credit union. Money orders guarantee payment and cannot bounce, so they are very secure. A money order requires money upfront from a guaranteed form of payment. This payment type cannot be cashed by anyone other than the written recipient on the money order. 

Only Work With People You Know 

Check fraud is a risk you need to be wary of when working with people you do not personally know. The best way to prevent depositing a bounced check is to deny checks from strangers. Consider using a secure money transfer service such as Venmo or PayPal if you sell items online.

How To Avoid Writing Or Receiving A Bounced Check
How To Spot, Avoid, and Report Fake Check Scams

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