Writing Bad Checks? Watch Out

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Fewer businesses are taking checks nowadays. Owners say it's just too hard to catch up with people who write bad ones, but the new state attorney is trying to change that in our area.

All of us have floated a check once or twice. Apparently, many people have been going a step further and writing checks for money they don't have. Now, the state attorney's office is stepping up to do something about it.

Steve Meadows is asking all businesses to follow a statute that's long been in place about accepting and cashing checks. Prosecutors say writing down the person's ID number is a simple way to make the cases easier to prove, and that will help small businesses.

Steve says, "Well, it's a real big problem if you’re a small business owner. It may mean the difference in a profit or a loss for the week or a loss on which you can support your family, so it's a significant problem as an economic crime on our community that we are trying to address."

Johnny Brock followed in his father's footsteps running a BP service station in Panama City, and he's always wanted to offer the same friendly face and easy atmosphere that locals enjoy, but that could change.

Brock worries he may no longer be able to accept checks.

Johnny Brock says, "It's really bad. It's 50 here, 20 there, and it really adds up and no one can really do anything about it."

He says checks are a measure of honesty and you never know who you can trust any more. State Attorney Steve Meadows hopes he can fix that.

"It really hurts the small business owner. A big store like Wal-Mart can just write it off as the cost of doing business, but for someone who owns say an auto repair shop, it hurts," says Meadows.

Brock says he won't give up taking checks just yet. He’s hoping the new emphasis on catching the frauds will help.

"It makes it hard for small businesses to try and do something nice and then get taken advantage of over and over. There are some good people out there and it makes it hard for them to write checks without us thinking it's bad."

You can do jail time for writing bad checks. First offenders also have the option to take a class on how to properly manage a check book.