Getting your money when a check bounces

According to the American Bankers Association, approximately 1.7 million checks bounce every day. About 80 percent of them are due to calculation errors, and re-depositing them usually results in payment. If not, since a check is really a contract in which one person is promising payment to another, the law is on your side: it’s considered theft if someone keeps goods they “purchased” with a bad check. So if you’ve been handed rubber money...

• Step 1: Make other payment arrangements. Tell your neighbor the check bounced again, and
•Ask for cash or a money order.
If your bank charged you a penalty, ask her to pay this too, and set up a time for you to come over and pickup the money.
• Suggest a payment plan. She may be having money trouble. Ask if she’d be willing to pay you in weekly cash installments.
• Ask for any unopened merchandise back if she can’t or won’t pay You can return these items to the manufacturer—and get paid only for those items she’s opened. Most of the time, the people involved work something out, but if she still doesn’t pay you...

• Step 2: Put your demands in writing. Give her one last chance by sending a letter via certified mail. Explain that you delivered the products, but that her check (list the check number and date) bounced twice. Urge that she contact you to make payment, and give her a deadline to clear up the problem. Most of the time, your letter will get her to pay you, but if she doesn’t respond...

• Step 3: Get tough. Gather proof that your neighbor stuffed you, including copies of the bounced check, bank statements and an invoice for the merchandise she purchased. Take these, along with a copy of the demand letter you sent her, to either: 

• The local district attorney (DA) or county prosecutor’s office. Most DAs offices have someone to handle small disputes like these. Filing a complaint is free, and the DA’s office will investigate and give your neighbor two chances to pay up. If she ignores the DA, she could be charged with theft, but most people pay up.

• Small claims court. Sue her for the money she owes you, including the bank charges and court costs.