Is it okay for a retailer to advertise that you wrote a bounced check?
UPDATED: February 10, 2011
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Posting a bad check at the counter for all customers to see is legal. Telling others about the bounced check is also legal because the information is considered to be factual and provable.
If a business owner receives a bad check, they have the right to immediately begin the debt collection process, and in the case of a bounced check, seek criminal liability as well. During the debt collection phase, the business owner can display the bounced check for the public to see. This is permissible because it allows customers the chance to identify and contact the debtor if they know them. In addition, the business may blacklist that particular customer, requiring that if they wish to continue to be a patron, they must use an alternative means of payment.
Business owners may also report the bad check to bad check writing databases such as Check Connection, Shared Check Authorization Network, Telecheck, or ChexSystem. These databases offer writer verification to businesses that accept checks. If a customer’s name comes up in the system, other businesses may also deny their checks.
On the criminal side, the business owner may contact the police and file a complaint about the bounced check. Writing a check without knowingly having the available funds is fraud. Most states consider this a misdemeanor and will charge a fee around $200 for first offenses. Some states, such as California, also impose a jail sentence for up to one year if the act is found to be intentional. Other states, such as Florida, consider writing a bounced check a felony and have very harsh penalties for even the first intentional offense.
However, in any state, a business owner cannot advertise the account number or any other personal information about the individual outside of their store. Advertising the account number on the bounced check would constitute a breach of privacy for the individual.