≡ Menu

Should You Accept a Personal Check from a Stranger?

Is it OK to accept a personal check from someone you do not know?

A few days ago I discussed my family’s decision to sell a beautiful executive desk on Craigslist.  What I failed to mention in that article was the payment method I accepted when the buyer showed up at my house.

As with most of my Craigslist transactions, this sale started with an email inquiry from a prospective buyer asking if the desk was still available.  I told the individual that it was and and after a few more emails answering questions and sending more pictures, we agreed on a time to show the desk.

The Transaction:

Having been through many Craiglist transactions over the last few years( including the sale of a car and a motorcycle), I assumed the individual would either be showing up with cash or a certified check

When we reached an agreement on the sale of the desk, I was a little surprised when the individual asked me if I would accept a personal check.

“I would rather have cash or a cashiers check” I said.

“Well, I was going to get cash, but I would prefer to write a check so I could write the item off as a business expense” the buyer said.

I was a little hesitant but quickly thought of a solution.

The Compromise:

“OK, as long as I can call the bank to verify the funds I’ll do it” I said.

“Oh sure no problem, let me see if I have their phone number” (incidentally, the bank’s phone number was not on the check).

While the buyer was busy looking for the banks phone number, I continued helping another lady load the desk into the buyer’s vehicle.

I knew from the individual’s email signature that she worked for a prominent insurance company in the area and the likelihood of her trying to pull one over on me was low, but I was still cautious.

I was concerned the check was either stolen, counterfeit, or there were inadequate funds to cover the amount.

I could have just pulled up the banks phone number on the Internet and verified the check and account right there, but I took a calculated risk and told the buyer it was fine.

I trusted my instincts but looking back, I should have been more careful…

Tips for Accepting Personal Checks:

  • Verify the individual’s ID (driver’s license, etc.)
  • Call the bank the check is drawn on to verify the funds.
  • Ask for additional identification items (business cards, phone #’s, etc.)
  • Record the license plate # of the vehicle (if the vehicle is from out of state, but the buyer has a local ID, be extremely cautious).

Although the buyer seemed to have a legitimate email account, business card, and personalized checks, I should have at least verified her identity by asking for her driver’s license.  A lesson learned for next time I suppose…

The Aftermath:

In the end it all worked out.  I cashed the check using my bank’s amazing deposit at home feature where the checks were deposited directly into my bank account via my home computer’s scanner.  It wasn’t until a few days later that I received confirmation that the check had actually cleared.  

Maybe I was too trustworthy, or naive.  Either way, valuable lessons were learned that day and I hope that you too can learn from my mistakes.

Related Information

Don't Miss an Article! Subscribe for free updates from Trees Full of Money by Email or RSS

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Larry June 20, 2010, 1:26 am

    I will not accept a check. Especially in the current recession. Many people are bouncing checks and re-selling YOUR stuff for cash. Just take cash no matter how large the purchase up to 10K. Then wire transfer or certified check, preferably from the Post Office…(postal money order).

Leave a Comment

Current ye@r *