How to copy a check

Question: When copying a check, do you need to take any extra precautions? Do
you just copy it straight? Do you block out the account number at the bottom? Do
you shrink it to thumbnail size? Do you copy the back?
Somebody here must have been in this situation.

You’re finally able to pay off that long standing debt that has been sitting on your
head like a constipated elephant. You’ve feared what may eventually happen, but
you don’t have any ability to help yourself, except to squirrel away money here and
there, in the hopes of freeing yourself from that beast.

Finally, you send the payment that officially ends the debt. You’ve freed yourself
from the elephant.

However, when you think you are in the clear, another elephant arrives,
seeking you as a convenient foot stool. It appears that as your check cruised its
merry way to debt collector #1, their client moved its business to debt collector #2.
Now they are harassing you for money that is in collector #1’s hands.
Naturally, they don’t talk with each other; they’re not the enemy, you are.
"How dare you NOT pay our client. I don’t care? What, your grandmommy is sick?
Too Bad!
What, mommy’s dead? So, Sad. PAY US!!

What, you’ve already paid someone else? So now you think you’re innocent,
because you’ve already paid someone else! Let me tell you something, you ain’t
innocent until you prove your innocence."

You can see all of the fun I’ve had during this episode.

Now to thoroughly mix my metaphors, I’ve got my exhibit “A” for them, the
cancelled check I sent to collector #1, with all the markings on it to prove it is the
same debt that they are hounding me on. In fact this check goes into a locked safe,
just so that in anyone else gets in my face about this debt, I can just whip it out and
say, “I don’t think so!”

But how should I photocopy this cancelled check? Copy both sides? Front only?
Obscure the account number on the bottom? Leave it alone?

WSM SterlingNorth

It is by the fortune of God that, in this country, we have three benefits: freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and the wisdom never to use either.
Mark Twain

The lesson to be learned from this sad tale is never deal with collection agencies! PERIOD! Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you are under no obligation to pay them anything, or to even provide them with any information regarding your debt to the original creditor. Never send them a check; you have the right to deal solely with the original creditor. If you send a collection agency letter telling them to cease any contact with you, they are required by law to LEAVE YOU ALONE!.

This and lots of other ways to use the FDCPA to defang collection agencies can be found here, as well as many other sites on the web; just search under “fair debt collection practices act”. You can’t be ripped off without your permission, so stand up and KICK THE BASTARDS IN THE GROIN!!



“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide


Most creditors require that you photocopy both sides of the check. That way, they have proof that the check was actually paid (all the endorsements, etc., on the back).

If I understand the stuff that came with my last check order, when you photocopy a check, it shows, because there is text missing from the copy and/or additional text that only appears on the copy. I haven’t had occasion to photocopy a check recently, though, so I’m not sure how it works.

You might want to talk to your bank about this; they probably know more than I do (understatement).

Never attribute to malice anything that can be attributed to stupidity.
– Unknown

I work in Accounts Payable, so this situation happens once in a while. We pay a vendor, but they have several addresses for the various accounts and the check is inadvertently sent to the wrong address.
It all starts with contacting the vendor paid in error and seeing about getting the money back. Every vendor is different. Some will cut us a check for the amount we paid them in error, so we can then send the money to the correct address. Others (and this only counts if the two are affiliated) will credit the correct account for us through their accounting system, with no money changing hands.

I hope one of these situations can be applied to your problem. Essentially, the agency that got your money has no legal right to keep it. And when they do their bookkeeping, they should find they have more money than should have. Good luck!

-Copy both sides. The front shows what the check was for, the back shows that it was endorsed by the payee and paid by your bank.
-As a precaution, you may want to black out your account number on the photocopy. The collection agency does not need to know your bank account number.
-Shrinking the check should not be necessary. Should the 2nd agency try to deposit the copy, several things would happen. The check would reject at the depositing bank (a photocopied MICR line will not work on automated bank equipment) and the bank endorsements on the back would indicate the check had already been paid. OTOH, shrinking will not hurt your case so long as the information is still legible.

TT gives some good advice, except this:

If the debt has been sold to the collection agency, you have no right to deal with the original creditor. A good deal of the Fair Debt Collection Act applies only to collection agencies working on behalf of the creditor and does not apply if the agency owns the debt. None of it applies to the original creditor when collecting its own debts.

TT also fails to mention that, while in some circumstances you have a right to cut off contact with a debt colector, the collector has the right to A) sue you or B) affect your credit rating.

Be careful out there!

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

Well, different checks have different protective measures. I have encountered some where the colored background is somehow treated so when the checks are photocopied, the background has VOIDVOIDVOIDVOID… running in lines across the copy.

Your Official Cat Goddess since 10/20/99.

Most checks have “watermarks” – a simple examination of the paper will show if it’s a copy. And the ink on checks is magnetic; not so on copies.

Copy both sides and tell them (nicely) to stuff it. Be sure to follow up with your credit reports to make sure these folks don’t list you incorrectly. Might happen anyway, the bastards.

your humble TubaDiva

Magnetic ink is no longer necessary. I print my checks out on my trusty little bubblejet printer. Most check readers can’t read it, but it is still viable. I have yet to have a check not get processed because the ink isn’t magnetic.