When Is Not Stopping Payment on a Lost Check Worth the Risk?

I wish I was as smart as my kids. They’re never wrong.

Never.

If you don’t believe me, just ask them.

As a matter of fact, I was reminded of that little “fact” last month after the Honeybee noticed that a couple of checks hadn’t been cashed by my daughter’s junior high school for fees related to her color guard activities.

Normally, we’d write a check out at the beginning of each month for $125 and Nina would then take it to school and safely deposit it in the music room lock box.

We also had the option of mailing the check directly to the school, but we figured it made little sense to waste 45 cents each month on a stamp when Nina could just as easily deliver the payment herself.

Anyway, from September through December, our little routine went off without a hitch. Nina turned in the checks and the school dutifully cashed them; always within a couple days of receiving them.

However, by late March, something was definitely amiss; for some strange reason, the checks for January and February had still not been cashed. Why did the school suddenly stop cashing them?

Well, after firing off an email to the color guard’s treasurer, she told us that she emptied the lock box daily and cashed the checks as they came in. She also assured us that she never received the January or February checks.

Now, assuming the checks were lost, we could notify the bank and issue a couple of stop payment orders — but I wasn’t convinced the checks were lost, which is why I was willing to take my chances and pass. Besides, at $20 per transaction, that was a lot of scratch to spend if we weren’t absolutely positive those checks were at risk of being found and then cashed by someone other than the school.

Since two checks were missing, the Honeybee and I figured it was reasonable to infer that, logically, the problem was most-likely traceable to Nina.

Of course, when we asked her if she may have forgot to deliver the January and February checks, she gave her mom an emphatic, “No!”

“Are you sure?” the Honeybee asked.

“Very sure!” Nina implored. “I absolutely remember putting BOTH checks in the lock box!”

“Are you positive?”

“Yes!”

“Could the checks still be in your backpack?” the Honeybee suggested. That seemed reasonable to me. Nina’s backpack has at least a dozen zippered compartments, each one packed to the gills with everything from homework assignments and protractors to makeup and miniature stuffed animals.

“Impossible!”

“Well, go check anyway.”

After storming off in a huff, Nina came back, precisely 26 seconds later, insisting she had conducted a thorough investigation of the contents hiding within every nook and cranny of her backpack and concluded that there were no checks to be found. Anywhere.

“Told ya!” she said matter-of-factly.

Uh huh.

Later that evening, after Nina had gone to bed, the Honeybee decided to go through Nina’s backpack and give it a more thorough examination.

Sure enough, in one of the pockets, crinkled up among all of the other flotsam and jetsam was the January check. As for the February check, it was in there too.

I don’t blame my daughter. It’s part of growing up, after all.

I’m just glad we didn’t waste $40 to have our bank stop payment on those “lost” checks.

Photo Credit: Donald Lee Purdue



Comments

    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      I think I’ve had to do it on at least two occasions, but it’s been a long long time. Most likely it’s due to automatic bill pay, which has reduced the number of checks we pay out compared now.

  1. 7

    says

    @Oscar I’ve heard you can cash checks in someone else’s name provided that it is signed on the back. Con artists have all kinds of ways of convincing people to do things their way too.

    • 8

      Len Penzo says

      One old trick criminals will do is acid wash the ink off the “Pay to” line and then rewrite their own names. If they are feeling really lucky, they may even do it on the “Amount” lines too — and then replace it with a higher total.

  2. 9

    says

    Those things happen with kids, but why didn’t the school ask you about those checks? I would use onlin banking and send the check. That way you have a confirmation number.

    • 10

      Len Penzo says

      Online payment wasn’t an option. I’m not sure why the school didn’t ask us about the checks. I suspect they either: 1) probably had enough money in the bank to cover expenses, so it wasn’t a priority; or 2) the treasurer hadn’t balanced her own books.

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