Did you know that bad checks collectively cost us about $18.7 billion every year? You might think checks have become obsolete in the tech-savvy year of 2020, but that’s far from the case. Millions of checks still get cashed around the country all year, and some of them are inevitably fraudulent. 

So, what happens if a check you cash bounces? You’re likely thinking – can I go to jail for cashing a bad check? What happens next? 

If you’ve recently cashed a bad check, then your concern is warranted. Learn everything you need to know about bad checks and check fraud below.

What’s a Bad Check?

In the digital age, we’re used to instant transactions that occur over the web. Checks work a little differently. First, one party writes out a check. Nothing happens until the payee brings that check to his or her own bank.

From there, the bank verifies the authenticity of the check. It will eventually get sent to a clearing unit who will again verify the check’s legitimacy. Once cleared, the funds get removed from one bank account and transferred to another.

This process can take several days, so banks often put the funds into the payee’s account immediately and await for their reimbursement. If the check turns out to be fraudulent, then the payee has usually already withdrawn and used the funds by that point.

A bad check is fake in one way or another. The check itself may have been illegally made, or the bank account information listed on it might be bogus. A check would be considered fraudulent if there’s a fake or altered signature or if the person issuing the check never consented to the transaction.

Once it bounces, the payee is on the hook for the money they withdrew from their account. That’s because the bank isn’t able to get the funds from the check holder. If you already spent the money, then you could find yourself in dangerous waters.

Can I Go to Jail for Cashing a Bad Check?

If you cash a bad check, are there criminal consequences? Not only will you need to pay the bank back, but you could also face criminal charges. It’s up to the bank to determine whether they’d like to pursue charges against you or not.

One of the biggest factors that come into play is whether the bank thinks you cashed the bad check intentionally or not. If you committed the scam on purpose, then the bank’s likely to press charges.

Depending on the value of the bad check, you could end up in jail anywhere from one to three years. You could get hit with a felony, which will have significant impacts on your life after you serve jail time.

Learn how a criminal defense attorney can help your case. Get your free ebook today »

Watch Out for Online Payment Scams

Since the pandemic, more people are looking for work-from-home jobs. According to officials, there’s been a sharp increase in online payment scams as a result. Always be watchful of online fake check scams.

These scams start when you receive a fake check in the mail and believe it’s legitimate. The person who sent you the check may ask you to use Western Union or a similar service to transfer money back to them once you cash the check at your bank. A few days later, the check bounces, and you’re on the hook for the full amount of the bad check.

Types of Check Fraud

Checks contain a lot of valuable information including your name, address, bank account number, bank routing number, phone number, and signature. When you think about it, those paper checks contain a whopping amount of private data. When it gets used in an illegitimate way, the act becomes check fraud. Here are some of the different types of check fraud:

  • Theft – stealing checks and using them to commit check fraud
  • Paper hanging – writing checks on accounts that are closed
  • Washing – chemically cleaning check paper to access and misuse data
  • Counterfeiting – intentionally printing fake checks
  • Forgery – using a fake signature on a check
  • Check kiting – accessing your funds from one account before the bank accesses them from a different account
  • Payroll fraud – using another person’s paycheck or benefits

The severity of your check fraud charges hinges on several factors including the value of the check, how many victims are involved, and how many times fraud was committed.

What To Do If You Cash a Bad Check

Did you recently cash or issue a bad check? If so, then you need to act quickly.

First, contact your bank if they haven’t called you yet. Alert them about the situation and issue a stop payment if possible. If you cashed a bad check, then let them know you will repay them ASAP. These actions might prevent the police from getting involved.

Otherwise, you might not realize you cashed a bad check until the police are questioning or arresting you. If that’s the case, then you need to reach out to a defense attorney.

Are you or a loved one facing fraud charges? Attorney Brett Podolsky can help »

Defense Strategies for Check Fraud Charges

Were you accused of check fraud? If so, then you need to hire a defense attorney as soon as possible due to the significant penalties associated with check fraud. If convicted, then you could get sentenced to:

  • Jail time
  • Pay significant fines
  • Probation
  • Perform community service

On top of that, you could face civil penalties, too. The bank may decide to sue you for the money they lost.

The number one defense strategy in these situations is a lack of criminal intent. If you can prove you didn’t know the check was fake, then you might avoid charges.

So, Can You Go to Jail for Cashing a Bad Check?

So, can you go to jail for cashing a bad check? Yes; you can face criminal check fraud charges if you knowingly cash a bad check. If the value of the check is significant, then you might even get convicted of a felony offense.

Not only will you likely serve jail time, but you’ll face lifelong challenges after a conviction, too. Once you’re a convicted felon, you lose specific rights. You’re no longer able to vote or legally possess any firearms.

The best thing you can do if you get accused of check free grammar checker fraud is to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. Are you ready to get an attorney on your side? Reach out to our experts now to get started on your defense strategy.