Altered Cheque

Reviewed by Anjaneyulu | Updated on Sep 28, 2020

Introduction

An altered cheque is a document or a negotiable instrument, which was altered to affect a fraud materially and maliciously. Usually, the payee name, the cheque amount, or the date will be changed.

An altered cheque is the most common type of cheque fraud. The others are being forgeries (imitated signature), falsified cheques (fake), and remote cheques (instead of a signature, there is a false statement that the account holder has authorized a cheque).

An altered cheque usually has a change made to the name or amount. For example, the amount on a cheque can be changed from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,00,000. Changing the amount on the cheque is said to be easier than changing the name.

Tips to Identify

Criminals alter cheques by changing the amount or the payee name. Then, they cash the cheque over the counter, deposit it into a new account, withdraw the funds before anyone detects anything, or finds other methods of getting the cash. To identify the altered cheques, the banker has to keep the following tips in mind.

  • Inconsistent handwriting
  • Visible signs of alteration and erasure
  • Ask your customer to report stolen cheques immediately
  • Suggest your customer not to leave blank spaces while writing a cheque
  • Be sure that any alterations are properly verified by the signature of the payee/drawer

Punishment in India

Dishonour of cheques, or cheque bounce, as it is popularly called, is considered to take place when the drawer of the negotiable instrument draws a cheque without sufficient funds in the bank account maintained by him or if any alterations made to the cheque or few other reasons.

It is considered as a criminal offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 with a punishment of up to one year or fine being double the amount of the dishonoured cheque or both.

Liability

When a bank receives a cheque that it thinks has been changed, they have the right to refuse the cheque. Depending on where negligence occurs, the responsibility for an altered cheque can rest with any party involved in its processing.

Thus, depending on the circumstances, the party who has drawn the cheque, the cheque drawing bank, or the cheque presenting bank may all be considered liable. The issuer of a cheque should ensure that there are no significant blank spaces left while writing the amount and quantity lines to guard against alterations.