Hot Checks Costing Small Businesses Thousands

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BROWNSVILLE – The Cameron County district attorney says most of the hot check cases their office is currently working on involve mom and pop shops.

Local Baker Cory Bryan said a few hundred dollars may be no big deal for a big corporation but for her, it's her livelihood.

Bryan is celebrating eight years of sweet success, selling gourmet cupcakes at Cupcakes by Cory.

She said a recent event is her second sale ever at the establishment that she won't forget.

"We had a wedding, three-tier cake order and we didn't think anything of it,” she explains. “We set up, delivered the cake. Well, low and behold, there was a check made in the full amount, of course, deposited it and it was returned."

Bryan says the hot check meant a $250 loss for business.

"We trust everyone you know," Bryan says. "We don't think that anyone has the mal-intention of leaving a bad check but it does put a little damper on things."

Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS there are investigators dedicated to tracking down people writing hot checks.

"If you have a neighborhood store and they take a check for $50 to $100, maybe to H-E-B or Walmart, it's no big deal," Saenz says. "But to (a small business) for that check not to be good, that could amount to a big chunk of their weekly or monthly income."

Some people simply make a mistake when writing a check with insufficient funds, he says.

But others have become experts at it.

"(There's) people that manipulate the system, people that know how to open accounts at different banks, have different bank accounts, have different looking checks," Saenz says. "They really take advantage of the system."

He says he's giving offenders one week to pay what they owe or they could face jail time.

The amnesty period will be held from April 30 to May 4.

"Take advantage of this by not getting arrested, by not having to come to court and incur further costs of fines, and court costs and lawyer fees," he said.

Bryan said she's had to stop accepting personal checks altogether. She says she stopped when she reached losses of about $1,000 in profit.

"Everyone needs their collection of monies, it's their hard earned labor and everyone needs to be paid," she says.

She's asking for others to help keep local businesses afloat by not paying with hot checks.

Saenz adds not as many hot checks are being written as before due to the increase of debit and credit card use.

He wants to remind small business owners that they have the right to refuse any personal check. 


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