HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office wants business owners to know that they can get help nabbing people who write bad checks at no cost.
The Worthless Check Unit has been around for about 10 years now. Only about 700 businesses in Horry County have used it during that time even though it's open to everyone.
"It takes the burden of prosecuting them off of me," said Vinnie DeAngelo, owner of Diva Dogs Pet Spa, who recently learned about the program. "It takes all the burden of me having to go after them off of me as a merchant, so that was pretty exciting news for us."
Whether there were insufficient funds or the account was closed altogether, anyone who has received a check for labor or services that wasn't paid can bring it to the Worthless Check Unit.
The unit will go after the check's writer and ask the person to pay it or the office will issue a warrant for that person's arrest. $7.5 million has been collected over the past 10 years.
"When you tell them, look, no threat, here's the way that this plays out. Someone is going to come and arrest you. You're going to have to post a bond. Why don't you just pay the check, pay it all back?" said Jimmy Richardson, 15th Circuit Solicitor. "We generally collect whatever we go after."
Businesses that participate are given signs to put up near check out to warn people of the consequences of writing bad checks, which Richardson says is often enough to curb the problem.
"I think once they see the placard that says, 'I'm going to be criminally prosecuted if I do this,' then they may very well move onto some other store or do something different," Richardson said.
DeAngelo said his business hasn't received any worthless checks since posting the sign. He had received a few in the past though.
"If you take a check for several hundred dollars, as a small business it will wipe you out if it bounces on you," he said.
The program is entirely free. Business owners can call the Worthless Check Unit to get a packet that includes a sign and forms to fill out when they receive a bad check. That packet is then delivered directly to the business.
"If you're a small business owner, you definitely want to look into it. It will save your business and it will save you a lot of time and trouble."