First of all a little bit of background so you know my motives for asking. Today my Dad recieved a sizable cheque through the post (lump-sum from his pension) and I joked that I would go pay it into my account to save him the hassle, he replied saying I would have to change my name first. This got me thinking about what safeguards exist to stop someone from changing their name in order to deposit a cheque not intended for them.
Imagine the scenario, you find a cheque on the ground for £100,000 written out to F. Johnson. You go and change your name by deed poll to Freddy Johnson and go open a new bank account with your new name and updated passport/drivers license as proof of identity. You then pay into your account the cheque for £100,000. Assuming that during the time between you finding the cheque and opening the new account the cheque isn’t cancelled what exists to stop you from successfully depositing the cheque? I understand that once the deception is detected (probably when the intended recipient reports he hasn’t recieved the cheque and the sender finds out it has already been deposited) it could quite easily be traced to your account and you would be busted.
However, i’m not interested in the likelihood of you “getting away with it”, but rather if the banks have any way they could possibly detect the crime before the money appears in your account. I guess that in the intervening period between depositing it and getting caught you could have laundered the money in some way to make it untraceable but you would still be caught even if the money is never returned.
What’s the Straight Dope on this?
P.S. Apologies to the mods if this crosses any barrier of criminal discussion.
In the US, we use Social Security numbers as unique identifiers, as well as date of birth. Do you have some kind of identification number there? (I’m guessing you’re in the UK??) That’s what helps us keep all those John Smiths straight.
Yes we have National Insurance Numbers in the U.K., but when you are making out a cheque to someone you don’t put their NIN anywhere on it, just their name, so all the bank has to go on to make sure the right person deposits it is the name listed after “Pay:”, I can’t think how the bank can tell one J. Smith from another at the point of the cheque being paid into an account.
I think I was asked for mine when I opened a new account but even with that information being stored on your account details it isn’t noted anywhwere on the cheque. If cheques were to read: “Pay: J. Smith (5647326584326)” then the bank could ensure that the right J. Smith was depositing the cheque but who knows the NINs of everyone they might pay cheques to? Nobody, would be a reasonable guess. Given just the name of the recipient surely the banks have no way of knowing if the J. Smith depositing the cheque is the same J. Smith who the cheque was intended for.
Even tho we all have unique identifiers (SSN, NIN…) it is still very possible to deposit a check into your account that has “your” name on it but not intended for you.
My dad and brother have the same name, and on several occasions have deposited checks intended for one of them into the other’s account.
My co-worker has the same name as his dad, and he (the co-worker) doesn’t have a bank account so he just gives his checks to his dad, who cashes them under his account and gives the co-worker the money.
Of course, if there were some sort of wrongdoing that went on between either of the pairs of guys mentioned above, I’m a sure a lawyer would be called to have it sorted out (in the case of my co-worker, I sign the checks so I would probably be called into court to point to the man in question that I intended the $$ to go to…)
This doesn’t answer the OP at all, but it’s an example of how “easy” it is to deposit a check with your name on it, even though it’s not intended for you.
Heck, I found out here, banks don’t even give a fig if you are depositing a check into your account that’s made out to someone else entirely! I pay dozens of bills in the course of my job, and I use Quickbooks to print the checks in batches, then match them up with the bills, tear off the bottom stub for my records and insert the check with the payment stub in the envelope provided. One time the checks to Verizon and SBC got mixed up, so the Verizon check went to SBC and vice versa. Both companies deposited the checks made out to the wrong payee, and none of the 3 banks involved (including mine) even questioned it.