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When good people write bad checks

Whether you are the bouncer or the bouncee, dealing with a bounced check is no fun. Americans reportedly write more than 1 million bad checks a day worth a total of some $50 million. People who bounce checks usually face bank fees of $25 or more. On top of that, merchants who get bad checks often tack on their own fees.

"We've seen people who have written four or five bad checks in a month and it has cost them an unexpected $200," says Steve Rhode, president of Myvesta.org, a nonprofit financial services organization. "That can sink a family's finances."

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Adding to the problem, bounced-check recipients may be charged a bad-check fee from their bank. Myvesta has a free publication on its website with tips to help people deal with problems associated with bad checks. Among them:

Watch out for low-numbered checks. An estimated 9 out of 10 bad checks are numbered from 101 to 499. These are often starter checks. People with new accounts may be unfamiliar with balancing a checkbook.

Look for fakes. Checks with smooth edges or glossy numbers may be counterfeits made with laser printers.

Use a check-verification service. These companies can confirm a check's authenticity. Many can be found on the Web.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor