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Electronic Banking: The Swan-Song for Kite Writers?

Updated on February 8, 2015

The establishment fought back

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Martin Luther King once said the Declaration of Independence was like a Bad Check.florida county (where you could get life for passing bad checks!)county in arizona
Martin Luther King once said the Declaration of Independence was like a Bad Check.
Martin Luther King once said the Declaration of Independence was like a Bad Check.
florida county (where you could get life for passing bad checks!)
florida county (where you could get life for passing bad checks!)
county in arizona
county in arizona

Go fly a Kite...Elsewhere!

Electronic Banking: Swan Song for Bad Check "Artists"

Where once people wrote checks - or cheques in the UK - for many of their purchases, especially the larger ones, to obviate the risk of carrying a lot of ready money, by 2015, this form of transferring money has practically disappeared.

Along with the fact honest - or crooked - use of checks is practically no more, those criminals who took advantage of the system, the bad-check "arists" as they were known, as well as "Kiters" and "Paper-Hangers," are also becoming just part of folk law.

The checks themselves had many names: kites, rubber, cold, hot, returned, etc.

These facile conmen were responsible for shops and individuals losing billions of dollars throughout the nineteen hundreds until credit and debit card use became the norm a few years ago. Even where checks are accepted nowadays, their value can be ascertained almost immediately and all checks are treated with some suspicion..."Haven't you got a credit or debit card?" shop assistants may enquire.

Banks were rarely hurt by all this phoney paper floating around. They just sent the check back to the scammed shop or individual with the stamp, "Insufficient funds," or "account closed." Then it was up to the victim to call the police or swallow the loss with a painful grin. Bad paper artists who did manage to extract funds from the banks were the elite and much admired by the bent fraternity.

The police throughout the USA set up special branches or groups to deal with the crooks. They shuddered as they heard, time and time again, the general refrain from those hit by the con-men, "He was so nice, I would never have believed..."and so on.

Even when they were caught, unless they had a lot of prior convictions, courts in most states were lenient with the generally harmless - in a physical sense - accused. They would get fined, probation, or a short jolt in a county jail; no doubt a situation where they could discuss their "art" with other dodgy writers and rejoin the public even better equipped to deceive. (Texas may well be the outstanding exception where protecting their god, the dollar, elevates the kiter to the same status as a murderer or rapist and they get sentenced accordingly).

The one glaring problem with being caught for bad-check issuance - vis-a-vis other forms of crime, such as burglary, safe cracking, armed robbery and pickpocketing, etc., the police have a lot of evidence, including positive identification by sales assistants, the goods obtained themselves, and the paper evidence itself - the useless check, along with a signature. Usually not the criminal's name, but surely his handwriting.

So the conviction rate was pretty high, but with prisons stuffed with drug offenders and crooks employing guns or violence in their crimes, check writing was seen as bordering on a misdemeanor, rather than a felony offence. The exception always being the professional kiter with many convictions who had been responsible for businesses losing millions of dollars.

Some bad check writers were pretty smart, too. A favored method went like this -

The crook would breeze into a new town, rent a pad with a check dated a week in advance, with a ready explanation. He would then rent a mail-drop address, telephone, buy business cards and perhaps order rental furniture. He was accumulating his assets. He then started a bank account using his new ID, address and business address (the mail drop which often featured phone answering). He would also buy a truck on credit, so easy in the good old days in the US.

An instant citizen had appeared and often even had the local greeters out to his home introducing him to the neighborhood, (a nice feature of life in the USA, counterbalanced by the usual dislike shown to the neighbors in the UK! Here, the "welcome committee" usually consists of a bunch of gossiping old gits peering from a crack in the curtains...but perhaps I am prejudiced).

The spider had woven his web, occupying the center and would be ready - as soon as his new checkbooks arrived - to visit the unsuspecting businesses. No, people weren't completely taken in by the con-man's gift of the gab, impressive appearance and the hope of a big sale...though many were in fact. You only had to listen to suckers giving evidence in court to see how relatively easy it had been to fool them. "He was so charming," they carolled, "His ID was correct, we knew the bank and he even suggested we call them!" (Note. His ID was a provisional driving license in his adopted name, plus business cards and utilty acounts and he had deposited funds in his account: to all intents and purposes, at the time of issuance, the 'promissary note was good). There were a few more ways the professional thief obtained photo ID's, too long to get into here.

In many states - where the penalties for passing bad checks, both in civil and state criminal courts, are as many and varied as the phoney ID's of the crooks, if a con artist informs his victim the check won't be valid right away, he cannot be charged for a crime.

Remember, this intelligent sociopath only had a week or ten days to put all this together and at some expense in time and money - most of which was covered by his useless paper - so he was now ready to recoup his investment and then some.

He would have tried to get the large checkbook with some 10 to 300 checks in it; if not, the banks regularly sent out up to five checkbooks to a new account holder; more than he would have time to float, but the ones he did use representing quite a score, even over a weekend's use.

In the case of large stores which had been burned many times by check scammers - and still got caught by them - they might ask for funds to be cleared before the purchase was confirmed. the crook knew well who they were, Sears and Montgomery Ward were two such; North America's largest department stores in the latter half of the last century, with an able credit department, yet with a desk full of rotten paper.

They were still a viable target. With aplomb, our personable kiter entered the electrical goods department. "Hi, just been transferred to you lovely city," he might gush. "I need a bunch of stuff for the new apartment as it's unfurnished." Sensing a large commission, the sales person was hardly thinking about this smartly dressed chap's background (or chapesses too: lots of bad check writing females). And you must remember, bad paper was only a small part of the millions passed daily by honest customers. (although I heard, along with false credit card use, it went up to a high of 12% in some areas...not a mere bagatelle!)

And any suspicions he, or his credit department might have had, were nulified when he asked for his purchases to be delivered, COD. A check back then was usually good for COD deliveries, after all, they thought they knew where you lived and the firm's delivery van drivers, or the courier, could care less anyway.

Our crim. didn't want soft furnishings or heavy stuff he couldn't move rapidly in the middle of the night, or sell quickly from a want ad.

So no sofas and arm chairs, it was a telly or two, stereo, fridge, dishwasher ("for the lady ya know!"). Maybe a top of the range hoover. A date and time for delivery was arranged and the crook headed jauntily out on the way to his next victim.

After he had hit all the local shops for watches, jewelry and not forgetting swank clothes for himself, he then had the weekend to pack up and scarper in his truck.

His delivery items arrived Friday or Saturday morning, come about by Wednesday in the next week, the checks began to hit the bank and the panic begun as the bank totalled up the amounts from the criminal enterprise, which might reach up to $100,000, depending how diligent and clever he was.

(The one smart business was the jewelry store who were not easily caught for large amounts, otherwise, one large diamond would equal all the felon could net from the other stores. They were caught, however, by kiters dressed as Arabs who had a jeweler deliver a tray of expensive pieces to a luxury hotel suite, to select "presents" for the wives! It is incredible how greed can make the most otherwise sane dealer become momentarily blind!).

By the time the store's security along with the local bank fraud squad arrived at his front door, the perp was many states away, setting up again and with a new ID and a bunch of new stuff on sale, or in Mexico where, before that country's own businesses began making electrical goods, large-scale, his ill gotten gains in the local "fayuca" (smuggled goods ) market. were worth perhaps three times what they were up north

Today, all that is behind us and modern minor white-collar criminals use a computer or credit cards to deceive.

Ironically, it is the banks who have now turned into deceivers and tricksters, stealing billions from the public with one Ponzi scheme after another, while benevolent governments help them out by diverting our tax money to cover any losses and help them pay astounding bonuses! The big difference is their legal but shady enterprises involve billions - and they hardly ever get accused of a crime, much less go to jail.

But we have always known justice means one thing to the poor and quite another to the wealthy.


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    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 21 months ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Sweetie: Yes, I am nervous about online banking as well. I have all my money in several online accounts with one building society bank - one of the few which hasn't visibly screwed us yet! I try to stay away from direct debit, which all service companies try to snare you in here (even the national lottery!)...and I don't leave my pension and any writing money in my current account, that's the easiest one to get into they say!

      What are you doing reading this tired old hub for again!

      Love ya, night night...

      ps...have the worst imaginable cold and cough, they type that wakes you up with a tickle every ten minutes...I call it my nymphomaniac cough! (no, not really)

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 21 months ago from North Texas

      I hardly ever write a check anymore. Electronic transfers usually do the trick. I did have an online drug company in England, no less, try to steal a couple thousand dollars out of my bank account. I caught them before it was too late, fortunately. It pays to check one's account at least daily nowadays to make sure there's no hanky panky and the money you think you have is really still there.

      I have been doing online banking for 14 years and mostly no problems. Keeping one's eye on their account is the best way to avoid getting cleaned out.

      Hope you are well Bobby. Take care . . . xox

    • profile image

      diogenes 2 years ago

      My comment just got trashed, effing computer, I agreed with your comment and said we had had a good summer for once and that I'm so-so

      Bob x

    • profile image

      diogenes 2 years ago

      Hi Misty: Goodish summer for once, at least 9 days of sunshine! Warm weather for months now, we shall get spoiled. Your comments re bankers are right on. Of course, they rule the world, not the politicians whom they manipulate into doing their bidding.

      I'm OK so-so really, hope you are fine

      Bob x

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 2 years ago from North Texas

      There is a good reason why not a single investment banker has been held responsible for the 2008 crash that was felt around the world. Not only their wealth has insulated them from their chicanery. The people most affected, cannot begin to wrap their minds around the sum 7 Trillion dollars, yes, with a T. That is how much bankers stiffed ordinary people and taxpayers with their bonus schemes, etc.

      Because ordinary people can't fathom 7 Trillion dollars -- real money -- instead they demonize poor people who may be getting a hundred or a hundred fifty dollars a month in food stamps. Often people who are in that situation where food stamps are needed because of the Great Bank Heist of 2008. Most people can understood the value of a $150, but 7 Trillion doesn't even sound real, so they ignore what they don't understand and pick on poor people who have already been victimized by the banks having their jobs, houses, and even retirement stolen and them now on food stamps.

      I have observed that people prefer to pick on those small amounts they can understand, but that make up such a small part of the U.S. budget as to be almost irrelevant. The big things, like the 7 Trillion are ignored because most people can't even conceive of that amount of money.

      It boils down to ignorance. People don't understand these things, but the worst part is that they don't want to understand them. They want everything to be simple, but sometimes that isn't feasible. Rather than get educated about these things that affect their lives, they prefer to dump on poor people. For sure it's easier to kick someone who's already down than it is to make sense of our banking system and the U.S. budget, etc.

      Passing bad checks in the U.S. hasn't been such a good idea in any state for several years now. In some states, like Texas, bad check writing is right up there with other serious crimes and falls right in with the 3 Strikes and You're Out law. Yes, 3 convictions for bad check writing can get a person life, so it's generally not worth it. So often these people wrote those checks for garbage -- a 6-pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes at the neighborhood 7-11. Imagine getting life for 3 bad checks for that stuff.

      Hope all is well with you Sir, and that you're enjoying your summer. If I could send you some of our heat I would surly do it. To be 100 F. here today and it's been upper 90s for several days here now. We are to be 100 or more for the next 10 days or so. Enjoy your cooler temps. Take care . . xx

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico

      I see I am, but haven't been getting your stuff. Well done on all you are doing for smokers, including having quit yourself. I never smoked apart from toying with cigars (the penis substitute!); drinking was - and is - my bête noir...diabetic now so have to watch it!


    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thanks for warming and well constructed comment, Robie2. I sorta miss checks, but not the rubber ones.

      Am I following you? I will have to look; been very remiss lately with HP after about 6 years on here.


    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 3 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Ah well, I wish I could think of a clever remark about Diogenes looking for an honest man, but I can't so I'll just say that in this day of identity theft and cybercrime I find myself a bit nostalgic about con men writing rubber checks. It all seems like a more innocent time and I agree with Old Poolman, that the paper check( or should I say cheque) is fast going the way of the buggy whip and the bustle and I, for one, don't miss it at all. Nice hub... clever and very entertaining. Voted up and interesting.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 3 years ago

      Bob, No I don't live on the computer, but I am a very early riser so that is how I quietly spend my time until my wife wakes up.

      Purchasing blank checks has become very expensive in this country, and with the ability to pay bills on-line I believe I now have a lifetime supply of blank check sitting on the shelf.

      Like so many things, paper checks served their purpose and now it is time for them to go away. Great article by the way.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Mike: Boy, you must live on the computer! Yes, I was reading an article about the subject the other day which gave me an idea for the article. Thanks for your ever welcome visit and comments,


    • profile image

      Old Poolman 3 years ago

      Bob, when I was running my business I was often the "victim' of bad checks customers gave me to pay for goods or services. Not only did my bank subtract the amount of the bad check from my account, they also tacked on a $25 fee to cover all the extra work they had to do. I always made the customer pay the fees the bank charged me when they gave me a good check to cover their bad check.

      Our local law enforcement agencies had a department that pursued people who issued bad checks and would not make them good. They had a high success rate and charged nothing for the services.

      Most of the time it was nothing but a mistake on the part of the customer who gave me the bad check, and they would quickly correct their error plus the service fees. But sometimes it was someone who intentionally gave a bad check and skipped town. Many merchants and service companies have lost money due to bad checks and I am glad to see checks becoming history.


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