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What to do if you received a bad check as a freelancer?

My client on Thursday sent me a check from a Wells Fargo business bank account with insufficient funds (at least that is what my bank explained to me). The check cleared within 24 hours by Friday, but was returned on Tuesday. Called my bank and they told me I had to wait until today for the "processing" tag to disappear. Was charged a return item chargeback fee, and the entire check was reversed.

I made a purchase order on behalf of the client after the check cleared. This was covered by the check. The amount has left my bank account negative, unfortunately.

Client has not been responsive.

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  • Is this problem primarily because of the principle of writing bad checks or is the amount the problem?
    – morsor
    Sep 30 at 9:35
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Stop communicating with your client, because they will either ghost you (net positive), or make up excuses and keep abusing your trust (net negative).

If you think they knew ahead of time they wouldn't have the money, you can file a police report for writing a bad cheque. It is doubtful you'll get any update, and doesn't get you the money anyways.

At this point, I would stop communicating with them. If they try to reinitiate contact, I would let them know I'm not interested in helping them.

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  • what if the jurisdiction is in a different state or country
    – ina
    Oct 8 at 7:52
  • to be honest, i don't know where my client is based. it's online. somewhere. i think they might have forged the entire check, including business address.
    – ina
    Oct 8 at 7:53
  • For filing a police report? Do it to your local station. They'll guide you if there is anything that can be done. Otherwise, like I said, stop communications with this "client".
    – Canadian Luke
    Oct 9 at 17:18
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It seems the problem is not merely the bad check, but rather the unresponsive client.

Generally, unresponsive clients need to be forced into again being responsive; merely appealing to their non-existent sense of decency (almost) never works.

Whether this matter is worth pursuing depends on a number of factors:

  1. The amount in question; is it trivial or essential?
  2. Client relationship; are they worth keeping?
  3. Sense of 'societal' fairness; there are probably other victims

I'm guessing the amount is worth some effort, but the client relationship is over. Fairness would not factor into my evaluation.

Should you choose to go for it, your advantage is that an actual crime might have been committed. The next communication with the client should not be a request for payment, but a guarantee that you will involve the authorties.

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  • yeah i reported it to the FTC but they did not have a form to upload photos and evidence.
    – ina
    Oct 8 at 7:52
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You have two problems:

  1. An unresponsive client
  2. Your bank balance

Only the bank balance is easy to change.

One suggestion is to call the place where you put in the purchase order and attempt to do a return / reversal of the purchase order.

Another suggestion is to see about getting a loan to put your bank balance positive (such as doing a cash advance on a credit card).

When a client goes unresponsive, there really isn't much that can be done. There is a reason why "skip tracing", delivering subpoenas, and making arrests on outstanding warrants are all hard work. Someone has to physically track down a person who does not want to be found. You get to decide if this client is worth doing that kind of work. I held one unpaid invoice for several years and when the client resurfaced asking for more work, I insisted they pay the balance before I would talk to them.

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  • wow bad clients always come back... scary!!! did they ever pay up?
    – ina
    Oct 8 at 7:52

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