How should I deposit a check that isn't made out to me?
December 28, 2007 4:28 PM   Subscribe

How should I deposit a check that isn't made out to me?

United refunded me for staying a night in a hotel in Singapore. However, they made the reimbursement out to the hotel and not to me. The hotel sent the check to me and I have it in my possession. The hotel will not cash it for me or do anything else to give me the money. United has been extremely slow in responding to my request to reissue a refund check (1 year). Is there anything I do to legally deposit this check without involving United? What sort of repercussions will happen if I decide to deposit this check as is?
posted by colecovizion to Work & Money (15 answers total)
Unless the hotel endorses it first, you can't. Either they need to endorse it and you sign underneath or you need to get a new check. Were you to sign the check as-is and attempt to deposit it, your bank would reject it.
posted by IronLizard at 4:31 PM on December 28, 2007

Unfortunately, they won't endorse it.

How would they know that my signature is different?
posted by colecovizion at 4:34 PM on December 28, 2007

If you try to deposit the check inside of a branch, the teller won't accept it. If you try to deposit it at the ATM, then there's a pretty good (but certainly not 100%) chance that the deposited item will be reviewed. Once the reviewer realizes the check is not payable to you (and is also stale-dated by this point), it will be debited from the account, you will be charged a small-ish fee, the check will be returned to you, and you'll be right back to where you started. If your deposit isn't chosen for review, you're probably fine (unless United disputes it), but I wouldn't count on it really. You're best bet is to keep escalating this within United until they reissue the check.
posted by logic vs love at 4:35 PM on December 28, 2007

Yeah you really can't do anything unless the check is endorsed. I'm not 100% certain, but I suspect that depositing it to your account may be fraud (although I think it would just get kicked back to you if you tried; I don't think people in jackboots are going to show up or anything). And unfortunately the hotel is unlikely to endorse the check because, from their perspective, it probably seems sketchy and suspiciously like a scam.

I'd escalate through United -- have you tried doing it in writing? I have no idea why they'd write the check to the hotel, but obviously something didn't go the way they thought it was going to. Make sure they know you have the check and will trade it back to them for one made out to you (so that they know that it won't get deposited later and leave them out for double the amount).
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:49 PM on December 28, 2007

How would they know that my signature is different?
Most businesses (in the US at least) use an endorsement stamp, not a signature.

As far as escalating the issue with United, check out The Ultimate Consumerist Guide to Fighting Back and their information on getting through to UA's executive customer service.
posted by logic vs love at 4:56 PM on December 28, 2007

Do not try to fake the signature. It's fraud (or something else more specific and still very much illegal and bad). This is the sort of situation where people do very stupid and illegal things under the theory of well really it's my money anyway, so it's ok, no bad.
posted by whoaali at 5:13 PM on December 28, 2007

Do you have documentation that the hotel sent the check to you? It's on a United Check, right? United's intention was to refund you the money, correct? So they would have no problem with you getting the money, however you end up with it. If the hotel forwarded the check to you, it was obviously as a naive means of passing along the refund. Is that right? I would take the documentation to the bank and print "Per United & (name of hotel) - REFUND CHECK." Sign the check and make a deposit to an existing account. The bank can take the check if they so choose. If neither party (United or the hotel) has a problem with you getting the money - then who is going to complain? It's not like you're asking for cash - you're making a deposit with a paper trail and you have documentation on you being the intended recipient of the funds. Right? There has to be an intent to defraud for fraud to take place - if this is really on the up and up, your bank should help you and you should be able to do this. No, it's not normal practice, but there are always exceptions - to everything. The key is your documentation, the printed statement above your signature and your bank being willing to help you. After all, all parties involved appear to agree it is rightfully yours, it's just a glitch with the check. It can be done.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 5:48 PM on December 28, 2007

Does anyone at your bank know your face well? I cash third-party checks on occasion, without them being endorsed by the third party, because I'm a familiar face at my bank and they have no reason to question me. A lot of folks are saying it's impossible without this and that, blah blah blah, but that's not my experience at all. Just walk into your bank and talk to someone you know, hand it over for deposit, and if questioned, explain how you got the check. Do not forge the hotel's signature/endorsement or anything like that. If you act like nothing's wrong and it's the most normal thing in the world for you to be cashing this check, then it will be. Just be confident.
posted by evariste at 5:51 PM on December 28, 2007

Sorry, I intended to include in my above comment that this is not legal advice, it is simply my opinion and interpretation. It's just my opinion that it goes to intention of all parties involved.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 5:51 PM on December 28, 2007

Evariste is right. I used to cash checks made out to the newspaper when I used to deliver papers as a young lad, the bank didn't care. They had me sign it and naturally everything was on the level. You may need to talk to someone higher up the bank chain than the window teller, but this can be done, it is done all the time.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 6:40 PM on December 28, 2007

Unfortunately, they won't endorse it.

How would they know that my signature is different?

Oh, I didn't realize we were discussing the possibility of forging the signature/stamp.
You're on your own there, buddy.
posted by IronLizard at 6:43 PM on December 28, 2007

You didnt mention how much we're talking about here. If its a few hundred or less, endorse the back with your regular signature and slip it into an ATM deposit. Worse thing that will happen is they catch it, debit your account and send the check back to you. Honestly, I don't they'd catch it, speaking from many years of experience on the other side of the counter. Banks get uppity about this when its a government check or an abnormally large sum.
posted by Asherah at 7:39 PM on December 28, 2007

I agree with Asherah. I had a friend in college who wrote a check out to his roommate for $50, but instead of signing his name his printed CHARLIE CHAPLIN on the signature line in big block letters. The roommate deposited it, and it went through without a hitch. My friend tacked the canceled check to his wall when it came back with his account statement, as proof that banks don't really pay attention to anything much other than the "amount" line.

(On a related note, a friend from high school had a family connection to a psychiatrist. I don't remember the psychiatrist's name, so I'll call him John Doe. Anyway, one of his patients was pissed at him and made the check for his session out to "John Fuckhead Doe." The shrink didn't know what to do, so he endorsed it "John F. Doe" on the back. Needless to say, it went through.)

If the bank bounces it back to you, you can always say that you got the check back from United, didn't bother to see that they'd made it out to the wrong party, etc.

Or you could just talk to United. But that would take more time.
posted by alms at 9:22 PM on December 28, 2007

Small claims court (or threats thereof)?
posted by astrochimp at 9:42 AM on December 29, 2007

To expand: if I owe you money, I don't shirk that burden by simply paying someone else. I still owe you and, presumably, you still have an entitlement to it and thus a legal claim against me. (I'm also presuming that the United you dealt with is located in the same state, or at least close enough to make this feasible).
posted by astrochimp at 9:49 AM on December 29, 2007

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