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Checking on Check Cheats

ELIOT WAGONHEIM: If you catch a mistake whether it is through identity theft forging a check or just a bank mistake promptly you can often get it reversed.

STEVE LOVEJOY: There are a lot of banking rules for who is responsible, but if that happens to you, you should definitely contact your bank.

ELIOT WAGONHEIM: Which is why it is important to monitor what goes in and what comes out, more importantly what comes out of your account.

STEVE LOVEJOY: One situation that I have encountered more times than I would like to think is where little Johnny took mother's checkbook and forged a bunch of mother's checks and mother goes to the bank and says, my son stole my checks and wrote this, put the money back. And that is when the bank will say, "we are very happy to put the money back because as long as you cooperate in the criminal prosecution of your son" -- whereupon mother decides in most instances that she does not need that money back. It is important to review the monthly statement on a monthly basis.

ELIOT WAGONHEIM: But if you let too much time go by, you bought it.

STEVE LOVEJOY: The laws that require the bank to credit your account if they are bad checks, checks that are fraudulent has a short fuse.

ELIOT WAGONHEIM: And so if you let 2 months, 3 months, or 4 months go by without questioning the charge, chances are you are going to be stuck with that.

STEVE LOVEJOY: If somebody has accessed your account improperly and taken your money, you might lose the right to get it back from the bank if you wait too long and by too long, I do mean 30 days. You need to be right "Johnny-on-the-Spot" in contacting the bank if there is anything in that account statement that is not yours.

More on Stephen LovejoyMore on Eliot Wagonheim

What should I do about errors on my account statement?

Consumers who have had a forged check drawn on their checking account are well protected under current law -- but only if the consumer acts fast. In many instances, the lapse of 30 or 60 days could let the bank off the hook for the amount of a forged check, or unauthorized credit card charge.

If you act in a timely manner, the law will hold the bank or credit card company strictly liable for any check drawn on a checking account that you didn't sign.

Forged checks drawn on an account are easily discovered because they are noted on your account statement. But you can't discover a problem if you don't review your account statements each and every month.

If you discover forged checks drawn on your account or unauthorized credit/debit card charges, you don't need to place a fraud alert on your credit file, block account information or check your credit score. But these would certainly be prudent steps to take. At a minimum, you can avoid additional fraudulent transactions by closing your account and opening a new one.

Law Can Be Stranger than Fiction

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