Unwittingly Deposit a Bounced Check, Go to Jail

Let’s say you’re a bank. Why don’t we say you’re Bank of America. Sure, Bank of America.

Then let’s say one of your customers sells something on Craigslist, or eBay, or wherever. And they deposit a check from the sale with you. And that check bounces harder and higher than a superball dropped from the observation deck of the Sears Tower. Smell the juicy fees you can charge him!

But don’t stop there. You call the cops and have the customer cuffed and hauled off to jail for being party to the criminal forgery of checks. And the cops don’t read him his rights, since they’ve been too busy writing speeding tickets to catch up on the latest season of Law & Order.

So now the customer comes back to you and wants you to cover the $14,000 in fees he’s spent trying to clear his name, since he says you never gave him a chance to explain the situation before having calling him a perp and giving him an evening in a cell full of guys too high to realize their head is under the toilet bowl. What do you do?

Nothing. Say you’re sorry the guy had his ass handed to him, absolve yourself of blame, and forget about it. After all, he was arrested “for the safety of the bank employees as well as the bank customers.” An innocent guy who’s already being hit with fees for just making a deposit? Obviously a menace.

And legally, there’s nothing the customer can do. And that seems wrong to us. (We sure feel lucky that our bank didn’t send the cops a-knockin’ after one of our second-cousins-by-marriage wedding-gift checks bounced… Seriously.)

Our question remains: Why does anyone still accepts checks, for any reason, from strangers?

Check from a scammer bounces victim into jail [SFGate.com] (Thanks, Jennifer!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. exkon says:

    Man, that is seriously messed up.. It’s like living with who has drugs and the cops come in and bust you while he’s away…

  2. GenXCub says:

    Well, yes, anyone accepting money from strangers should use PayPal or something similar, but this can be a serious PR issue from BofA. Get TV news on this and they’ll recant VERY quickly.

  3. bluegus32 says:

    Think of it from a public policy perspective. California Civil Code section 47 makes any statements made in relation with a judicial or legislative proceeding absolutely privileged.

    The reason behind the privilege is simple and compelling; we want to ensure that nobody has any fear of reporting a crime. While it is sad when someone is falsely accused, we don’t want to open the door to more lawsuits by having everybody claim that they were falsely accused.

    I’m a criminal lawyer in California and I’ll tell you — every person is innocent. Nobody ever committed the crime for which they are accused. Imagine giving every single criminal an open door to file a lawsuit against their accuser. It would virtually guarantee that the vast majority of people would stop reporting crimes out of fear of civil liability.

    Did BofA jump the gun? Maybe. But under no circumstances should they be expected to pay for this guy’s legal fees in connection with this situation.

  4. nweaver says:

    Actually, its been in the chron. THe basic answer is “Go away”

    Firstly, the title is bad. It’s “Deposit a Phony Check, get thrown in jail”.

    IT was suspicious enough that the person making the deposit was asking at the bank (“Is there funds for this”) before depositing. If he had spoken to the manager with more iformation, this would have never happened.

    And BofA has no liability in this manner: you are protected for reporting a crime, even if you mess up.

  5. Jennifer42 says:

    Liability, no, but responsibility, yes. They f’d up- hiding behind ‘liability’ doesn’t absolve them for soing something this horrendous.

  6. Admittedly it’s stupid to accept a check from someone you don’t know…but how depositing a check that bounces makes you a party to forgery is beyond me…F’n lawyers.

    Charging a fee for the inconvenience of the bounced check to the bank = OK

    Having the guy arrested for attempting to commit fraud against the bank = overkill and possibly a glimpse into our Cyberpunk future of corporate governments. Remember, never bounce a check in the Federated Commonwealth of Bank of America!!!

    Bank of America is NOT in the clear either…maybe criminally they are clear, but they are always liable for civil penalties if this guy can afford to go after them, and he should. The police are also liable in this case…afterall, did they need to cuff and imprison this guy for the offense? Was it an imprisonable offense?

  7. Comment gone to the void…

  8. The_Truth says:

    nweaver: say what?

    It was the bank manager who was making the calls to the police. More to the point, why would tlaking to a manager and talking to a teller have made any difference?

    He could have explained the entire situation up front, but when you walk into a bank to deposit something, last time I checked you dont have to give a detailed explanation as to how you got the check.

    Calling the police is fine, however detaining someone without reading their rights, and on BoA side, not listening to their story and attempting to make right is just wrong.

  9. Just a quick correction – Cops don’t have to “read rights” to everyone they arrest at the time of arrest. That’s a common misconception perpetrated by TV. You must be read your rights prior to a “custodial interrogation.” So if you are arrested where they don’t intend to interrogate you, such as when they actually witness you committing a crime, they won’t read you your rights. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have the same rights, it just means they don’t have to Mirandize you.

  10. Comment void…

  11. MonsieurBon says:

    crayonshinobi: the point of the article is that BofA _isn’t_ liable, in criminal OR civil terms. As it explains, it is meant to protect people who report crimes. In other words, if you called the cops on your neighbor because you heard shots fired and screaming, they couldn’t sue you for calling the police on them if it turned out they were setting off fireworks.

  12. timmus says:

    I’m reminded of why I’ll never bank with Bank of America again. I had some fraudulent withdrawals back in 2001 from someone that had my business account’s ABA/routing, and BofA was totally clueless and couldn’t even lock the account to prevent further withdrawals. I closed the account and went to a small local bank and haven’t looked back. It will be a cold day in hell before I do business with any mega-bank again.

  13. gina227 says:

    I once had a similar experience with Citizens bank. My boyfriend and I were waiting for a paycheck of his that was extremely late so we called the company and they said it must have gotten lost and they would cancel it and issue a new one. A few days later, the new check arrives, I cash it, pay some bills, end of story. Not. A day or two later, I get a series of threatening messages from the bank saying they will be sending the police to arrest me if I don’t return the funds immediately, because the check had been cancelled. Yep, it was the oringinal check that finally showed up. OK, so it was cancelled, but I tried to explain the mistake and they would not listen to me. I just love being threatened and treated like a criminal for no apparent reason.

  14. Jesse Lee says:

    I think it’s doubly insane that he ASKED BofA about the cheque specifically and they told him it was fine. So – ok, crucify the guy for accepting a cheque from a stranger, but you can’t say he didn’t take the precaution of going to the bank to ask about it. I would have just deposited it through the ATM if it were me.

  15. AppTechie says:

    This isn’t the first time it has happened either. A friend of mine went to deposit an overseas check for a guy buying a car from him. He went to the teller and asked if they would verify the check. They then called over security and pretty much accused him of fraud because he put the check on the counter “knowing that it was bad”. Bunch of assholes…

  16. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m quite disappointed in BofA on this one.

    They’re CLEARLY missing a great business opportunity.

    1) Hire tattooed, sexually threatening, freakishly over-muscled cons as inside sales reps.

    2) Get their overly-trusting, eBay-using customers arrested and incarcerated.

    3) Have these reps offer BofA loans to get them out. Pair up reps and customers in same 2-man cell for “Personal selling” at its best!

    Talk about self-creating market opportunities!

    (annoyed that I’m not a BofA employee because BOY would bonuses be rolling my way)

  17. vrtclsmile says:

    Atlanta radio consumer dude Clark Howard has taken them on – go to his website and see, among other things, the “giving goal” style “thermometer” showing how much money has been withdrawn from BoA since he went on the crusade. Also hear the audio of his on-air “conversation” with two BoA execs who stumbled around and said nothing.