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.

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2 Responses

  1. Larry 8 years ago
  2. B 8 months ago

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