Over the next few years, here in the UK we will undoubtedly see the end of writing a cheque to pay your bills. Technology has moved on and more and more of us are using debit or credit cards. In fact, a recent article in the Daily Telegraph showed that in September 2010 we spent £272 billion on debit cards compared to £269 billion in cash.
So in the twilight days of cheque writing we read a cautionary tale of using red ink when writing a cheque. In the US, one of the major bank’s scanners did not record a cheque written in red ink, marked the cheque as fraudulent and caused a couple’s account to be shut down leaving them without access to their money to pay the mortgage or bills, and even a trip to the bank did not resolve the issue.
It all started when Judy Lackey and her husband, Ethan Sorrelgreen, each got a cheque for $100 from Sorrelgreen's grandmother for Christmas. The grandma "is going blind and she could only find a red pen to write the cheques," Lackey says.
They deposited the cheques via an ATM machine and it was not until a few days later they found that neither cheque had been recorded and that their account had been closed due to fraud. They contacted the bank who told them that any funds remaining on the account would be refunded in 10 days. Without access to their account and no other funds, the couple were placed in the unenviable position of not being able to pay their mortgage or bills.
A visit to a sympathetic bank manager also proved to be unsuccessful. He made a number of phone calls but there was nothing he could do as the bank process where fraud was suspected was to shut down the account.
In the end the couple, contacted the San Francisco Chronicle who were successful/ in getting the bank to reopen the account to the couple’s great satisfaction. Apparently, the bank’s scanners indicated that that the red-ink cheques showed up as blank and were reported to the fraud team. The imaging system is black and white, and picks up black and blue ink more clearly.
So if you are still using cheques, remember – black or blue is better!