check slaps you for 7 years
I bounced some checks in 2001, paid them in full after
they went to the district attorney, and now I am finding it is showing up as a
criminal conviction on "consumer reports" ordered by potential employers, thus
preventing me from obtaining employment.
Does this sort of
information stay on my report for seven years just like other bad items on my
credit report, or will it haunt me for longer?
I can see where you are confused. I had to read your question a
couple of times before it became clear what is happening here. A
"consumer report" is different from a credit report. The latter
is usually from one of the three main credit reporting bureaus (Experian,
TransUnion and Equifax). They are used by lenders to decide whether
to extend loans, and on what terms.
type of reports you are referring to are "specialty consumer reports."
There are many
types of agencies doing these specialty consumer reports -- some have medical
information, others insurance, or gambling experience in their databases. You
have run up against another type: an agency that performs employee background
I can't tell to which one you are referring, but it
sounds like your employer, or the reporting agency it hired, ran a criminal background
check on you. The bad news is that criminal charges associated with the bounced
checks can remain in court records forever.
The good news
is that the negative information about your background lasts only seven years.
Just as late payments fade with time on ordinary credit reports, they also fall
off the specialty reports.
By law, you are allowed to a free copy of the report,
if it exists, once per year. Under the Fair
Credit Reporting Act, any company that takes adverse action
against you -- such as turning you down for a job -- due to information
on the report must tell you so. The company must also give you the
name, address and phone number of the reporting agency that filed
the report. If you haven't done so, you should get that report.
ChoiceTrust, one firm that conducts employee background
reports, does a good job of explaining your
rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
There are also
agencies that specialize in check writing history, and you can check your
reports with them, too.
My research tells me that it is exceptionally rare
for arrests or convictions to show up on a "regular" credit
report. The public record of a judgment from a bounced check would
be there for seven years. In case you were wondering (I was), the
FICO scoring model rates each type of public record that shows up
on your report -- so a bad check, an unpaid tax lien, a court judgment
and a bankruptcy are all scored differently.
recommendation is to be upfront with potential employers and let them know what
they will find on your specialty credit report. Explain how you have solved the
problem and why it in no way affects how well you will perform, if given an employment
Most people don't realize how serious a matter
bouncing a check can be. Beyond fees and penalties, if the check is not made good
quickly, the payee can take legal action and, ultimately, it can become a criminal
matter. If you do bounce a check, contact the bank and the merchant and make good
on the check right away.
For those readers who need a refresher course on using
checking accounts, and especially for those who may not be familiar
with the rules, please review the information below.
|Using checking accounts:
To see the agencies that report on whether consumers
pay late on their rents, gambling debts, medical bills, and if they
bounce checks, see "Specialty
consumer reporting agency list."
The Debt Adviser, Steve Bucci, is the president
of Money Management International Financial Education Foundation
and the author of Credit
Repair Kit for Dummies. Visit MMI
for additional debt advice or to ask a question of the Debt Adviser,
go to the "Ask the
Experts" page and select "debt" as the topic.