In the past four years, the 16th Circuit Solicitor's Office has recovered $1 million from worthless checks written to small businesses through its fraudulent check unit.
Averaging a quarter million dollars each year, the unit has helped more than 1,000 businesses seek restitution for more than 5,000 worthless checks.
The program does what merchants once had to do on their own, sending letters to the check writer and navigating the court system seeking payment.
Small businesses in York and Union counties "operate on thin margins, and if they get a bad check then that usually goes straight to their bottom line," said Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Court solicitor, during a news conference at Wilson's Nursery on West Main Street in Rock Hill on Friday.
Brackett was there to present the business with a check on behalf of the worthless check unit. The check was for $75, which included $45 recovered from a worthless check and a $30 service fee.
Most of the time, merchants will let a $40 or $50 check go because going through the trouble of collecting the money may cost more than the check itself, he said.
It's a big help, said Yvonne Wilson, whose family owns Wilson's Nursery.
She has a drawer full of bad checks right now, she said, and years ago, the business used to try to collect the money themselves, but the letters they sent were often ignored.
"We never collected, they never paid no attention to the letter or anything."
Bad checks could add up to hundreds of dollars lost, she said.
But since the program began with the solicitor's office, "every single one has been collected. ... It's a really good program."
"We know we're going to get the money. It might just be a little bit, but it's coming."
The best part of the program is "the entire service is paid for by fees that are imposed on the people who write the bad checks," Brackett said. "It's a self-funding program and it's been working extremely well."
For information about the program, call the solicitor's office or Maria Cabrera, check unit coordinator; or visit the solicitor's website, where vendors can download forms and view instructions on how to send in bad checks.
The check must have been received in York County, deposited within 10 days of receipt, cannot be postdated and there can be no agreements to hold the check.
Vendors should take advantage of the program as soon as possible because warrants must be obtained within 180 days from the date the check was received, according to information on the solicitor's website.
The vendor sends in the check, and "we will take it from there. We'll reach out, find the person, give notice to them," Brackett said.
If the person doesn't make the check good, the solicitor's office will take him to court, issuing a warrant for his arrest if necessary.