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I work for a county government. We process over 16,000 checks over about 2 months. I have an issue with some things we do. If someone writes a check out wrong, for example if he doesn't put the correct change in either the box or Written Out, we have to change it.

If someone writes in the box 285.00 but Written says eighty five 00/100 my boss will make us write it in ourselves.

I don't feel comfortable changing someone else's check. I just want to find out whether this is legal to do or not.

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    The Illinois Secretary of State's office specifically has on the application for driver's license renewal and vehicle title renewal that by submitting the application, the applicant specifically gives the State the authority to correct checks written incorrectly whether it is amount due, or payee, or date etc. Maybe the county office has something similar. – Dilip Sarwate Mar 20 '18 at 15:17
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit: True, but if a state government states this, chances are that state law permit such changes (in the circumstances described). And if it's legally permitted, it's by definition not fraud. – MSalters Mar 20 '18 at 15:50
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    @MSalters -- administrative agencies quite often assume that they can do various things without knowing whether they are, in fact, legal. They are often wrong. – PJB Mar 20 '18 at 15:57
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    @MSalters: "if a state government states this, chances are that state law permit such changes" I honestly think that's a bit of a leap. States do illegal things all the time. – Lightness Races with Monica Mar 20 '18 at 16:06
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Nonsense! The Illinois resident is not telling the State of Illinois that is OK to defraud him/her, but that it is OK to correct the applicant's mistake in writing the check. Now, whether the bank will pay the check in which the words "two hundred" have clearly been inserted, with appropriate proof-reader's marks before the "eighty-five and 00/100 dollars", is a different issue, but there is no fraud involved: the payer knows and has agreed tp pay $285; it is just the payer's screw-up in forgetting to write "two hundred" preceding "eighty-five"etc. – Dilip Sarwate Mar 20 '18 at 16:10
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IANAL, I would seek legal advice from a legal professional. That being said. The proper way to handle someone miswriting information on a check is to reject the check and return it to the originator. Altering a check issued by someone else is a crime (potentially a felony, based on the sum of money involved), and you have every right to refuse to do it. I would STRONGLY suggest you document what's going on before saying anything though.

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On a check, if the two amounts do not match, the written out amount should be considered correct. Section 3.114 of the Uniform Commercial Code states that:

If an instrument contains contradictory terms, typewritten terms prevail over printed terms, handwritten terms prevail over both, and words prevail over numbers.

So, you simply accept the check for the written out amount. DO NOT make changes to the document because that is fraudulent. If the amounts do not agree, you can't pick which one you want to use - you must use the written amount. If the written amount is incorrect, your only choice is to reject the check or accept it for the written amount (and bill for or refund the difference).

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    The UCC is irrelevant unless in a jurisdiction that has chosen to make it their law. OP did not even state his/her country. – WGroleau Mar 20 '18 at 15:56
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    @WGroleau, Good point about not knowing OPs exact situation. The UCC was just one source I could find, but this rule is widely adopted and is good advice for others that come across checks that have mismatched amounts. Of course a "government agency" or business owner should absolutely check the laws in their specific area. – JPhi1618 Mar 20 '18 at 16:01
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    'county government' is a strong indicator or US or UK. Spelling of the word 'check' indicates US. Not 100%, but pretty safe. – Jeutnarg Mar 20 '18 at 16:34
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    @Jeutnarg no one in the uk refers to county government and in the uk a county is similar to a state a parish would be the closest the UK has to an American county – Neuromancer Mar 20 '18 at 16:47
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    @Neuromancer - I suppose I should have said Commonwealth. I do believe that Canada has counties that are similar to US counties (not in all provinces, but in more than a few) – Jeutnarg Mar 20 '18 at 16:57

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