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Unexpectedly… a Bit More on “Stolen” Checks

Ok, dear readers… it’s been an interesting few days.  Some of you may recall my Monday post about the difficulties more and more of us are facing in this crazy world of workers’ compensation: the “stolen” check.  Naively, I asked, at the end of my post, what my beloved readers thought about this issue, and what defendants can do to make sure they don’t get taken in by the cheats and liars out there that not only receive their checks and cash them, but cast doubt on those workers truly victimized by stolen disability payments.

Well, the responses were a bit… surprising.  Although several of the comments were meritorious and thoughtful, others were… not so pleasant.  Accordingly, I’ve declined to publish the comments (sorry folks – no colorful language today), but did want to relate the highlights.

One thoughtful reader pointed out that one of the problems is the fact that the allegedly injured worker can cash these checks at check cashing places.  Once cashed, the “stop payment” is not particularly effective, and the cash-checking place now has an incentive to affirm that the check was cashed by the appropriate person.

One commenter suggested putting language on checks requiring a photo ID to be cashed.  However, the check-cashing services do not make money by turning down checks, so why would such services feel bound by a note on a check?

Another reader related that workers’ compensation defendants could easily solve all the world’s ills (at least with regard to stolen checks) by offering direct deposit.  This commenter even suggested that the defense community brings this ill upon itself by hoping that most check’s won’t get cashed.

Now, Labor Code section 4651 does seem to provide the opportunity for employers and insurers to make disability benefits payable through direct deposit.   However, this approach brings its own problems.  If you’re dealing with the type of individual that intends to defraud the insurer or employer by cashing checks and then claiming them lost, why would they consent to direct deposit?

After all, section 4651 provides that “[n]othing in this section shall prohibit an employer from depositing the disability indemnity payment in an account in any bank, savings and loan associations or credit union of the employee’s choice in this state, provided the employee has voluntarily authorized the deposit.”  (Emphasis belongs exclusively to your humble blogger).  All the man with intent to defraud in his heart need do is refuse to authorize the deposit, and we’re back to square one.

Again, dear readers, our problem is not with the honest worker who makes a deal sticks to it, because no security measures are needed there.  Instead, our problem is with the fraud, the thief, the cheater who intends to steal money: why would such a villain agree to make his wicked efforts harder to complete?

One of your humble blogger’s “anarcho-capitalist” mentioned something about Bit-Coin, and, of course, my communist friend suggested an agrarian community where, before long, there would be no need for workers’ compensation because we’d all be unemployed.

Perhaps at the next round of legislative reforms, we can include a Labor Code section allowing some alternative payment delivery options, such as delivery of benefits checks at the employment location, requiring applicants to open a bank account or provide one to have benefits deposited there, or some other clever idea yet to come.

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