Bad checks are bilking an increasing number of retailers and small business owners out of thousands of dollars in illegally purchased goods, says the St. Louis Pos-Dispatch. Because they’re often used to cover small purchases and many businesses don’t report to police, statistics on bounced, doctored, or just plain fake checks are unreliable. Madison County, Il. State’s Attorney William Mudge said the trend is not only real, it’s growing in popularity, most recently because of a crumbling economy that’s made passing off forged checks seem all too easy. “Every year, the number increases, but now it’s in part due to the economy,” he said.
The increase has tacked on more work for police and prosecutors, along with providing a steady stream of clients for the county’s Bad Check Restitution Program. The 11-year-old program has collected more than $2.1 million in restitution for merchants mostly by allowing crooks caught passing fake checks to repay businesses and take classes instead of facing more serious charges. About 600 caught passing bad checks took the option last year, repaying about $250,000 in fees. The funds help businesses recoup losses and pay for the program. The centerpiece is a series of courses ran by American Credit Counseling Service Inc. that help bad check passers keep tabs on funds and controlling spending, teaching them “better management skills of their money to avoid a repeat performance,” Mudge said. The program claims a 4.3 percent recidivism rate. The classes also help eliminate the cases from clogging up the judicial system, he said.