The consequences of writing a check when there is no account

Dear Experian,

Is writing checks on an account which has been closed considered illegal?



Dear LXS,

Writing checks on an account you know is closed would be considered check fraud, which is a crime. So, yes, it is illegal.

When you write a check to purchase an item, you are making a legal commitment to the business that the check is as good as cash. A person is stealing from a store when they write a check and know that there is no money in the account, or in this example know that there is no active account at all.

It also can result in the bank sending the amount of the bounced check to a collection agency. The collection account would then appear on your credit report, seriously damaging your credit history. The collection account would remain for seven years.

In the past, people would often write a check counting on the “float” to give them time to put money in the account. “Float” is the time between writing the check and the bank processing the check and taking money from the account.

In the past, the float period could be several days because it took that long for the business to mail the check to the bank and the bank to then manually process it. Today, many, if not most, transactions are electronic.

Now, the check often is scanned at the point of sale and the information is immediately transferred to the bank for processing. Float is almost eliminated.

So, when you write a check today, make sure you have money in your account to cover it, or your bank might be contacting you to ask for a deposit and additional fees for lacking sufficient funds to cover your check.

Thanks for asking.

- The “Ask Experian” team

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