For Immediate Release
June 15, 2009
Chris Gaal, Office of the Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney, 349-2670
IMPROVEMENTS ANNOUNCED TO PROSECUTOR’S BAD CHECK PROGRAM
Bloomington, Indiana – “STOP! Do Not Write A Bad Check,” says a sticker shaped like a stop sign being distributed to local merchants by the Check Deception Program at the Office of the Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney. Check Deception – writing a bad check on a closed account, or knowing that there is not enough money in the account to cover the check, is a criminal offense punishable as a Class “A” misdemeanor.
For years the prosecutor’s office has run a Check Deception Program as a service to help reduce losses to local businesses from criminal check deception. Although the program itself isn’t new, Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Gaal believes there is certainly room for improvement in the way it is administered, “One of my goals has been to update our check deception program, make it more efficient and user-friendly, and include efforts to prevent bad checks from being issued and accepted in the first place.”
In the past, the prosecutor’s office required bad check victims to take certain collection efforts on their own, including sending a certified letter directly to the check writer and then waiting ten days. Once the victim provided proof the certified letter was sent, the prosecutor’s office would then send another letter and wait an additional twenty-one days. This month of delay would often cause the victim to incur additional expenses, and made it less likely that the bad check would be made good through payment. “We determined that duplication of effort was unnecessary and there was no need to go through the process twice,” says Regina Saunders, Director of the updated Check Deception Program. The old program also adhered to a policy not to accept out of state checks for collection. “That doesn’t make sense in a college town where checks are often drawn on out of state banks,” says Saunders.
Under the new program, merchants can refer a bad check by filling out a simple form. The prosecutor’s office will then send a letter giving the bad check writer an opportunity to pay the check and avoid potential criminal charges. “Our goal is to increase the percentage of checks made good through payment by more timely and efficient communication, not necessarily to file criminal charges,” says Saunders.
“As we implement the new process, we will also encourage local businesses to follow proper check acceptance procedures aimed at reducing their exposure to bad checks,” says prosecutor Gaal. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and we hope to prevent this problem from happening in the first place rather than reacting to it after the victim has suffered the loss without payment.” To that end, Gaal’s office has produced a new brochure that explains the program along with best practices for checking ID and recording personal identifiers on the check itself, as well as verifying current address and telephone number. Other tips include reminders not to take post-dated checks, and not to agree to hold a check until a later date. The prosecutor’s office is now distributing the new brochure to local merchants along with the “stop sign” stickers suitable for display at places of business. You can obtain bad check referral forms, brochures and stickers by contacting the Office of the Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney at 349-2670, or by visiting the website at www.co.monroe.in.us/prosecutor.