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Check Verification Companies Can Give Consumers Headaches

Check Verification Companies Can Give Consumers Headaches

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(NBC News) -- Your good check is turned down as "bad" at the cash register and you have nothing to say about it.

A number of consumers have reported this problem, and say the growing check verification business is to blame.

Lisa Parker has one woman's story.

With the top of her tree decorated last month, underneath was a bit bare for Pam Foley after a shopping trip to Best Buy went bust.

Pam Foley, Consumer:"I had a purchase that was roughly $350 and I wrote a check for it and the check was denied."

With that surprising denial, Foley says she started asking questions first of the bank and then the credit agencies.

Pam Foley, Consumer: "I ordered a copy of my credit history again, because I wanted to double check if there was something wrong that I didn't know, and as far as I can see, everything looks fine."

What Foley didn't know was that the decision to deny her check was not made by Best Buy, but an outside company, the kind which many retailers now use.

Check verification companies base decisions on check-history databases. Their stated goal is to prevent fraud.

In this case, the Florida company, Certegy, flunked Foley’s check, but later would only tell her that "her check fell outside of approval guidelines."

An answer foley calls, "vague."

Pam Foley, Consumer: "No one can tell me specifically why, and no one can tell me if I write a check tomorrow, whether it will clear or not and that's what's frustrating about it."

Frustration apparently shared by other shoppers. The Better Business Bureau Has 419 complaints filed against Certegy and gives the company an unsatisfactory record.

For it's part, Certegy says most of those complaints have to do with collection Issues not customer service.

It says of the nearly 2-billion transactions it handles every year, 98% are approved. Of those denied, the company says most are fraudulent transactions. However, in rare cases such as Foley’s, Certegy admits mistakes are made.

In a follow-up phone call, Certegy offered Foley another apology and a more specific reason why the mistake occurred.

Foley says the company explained that the check was denied because it mirrored a pattern, related to a fraud ring in her region that Certegy has been tracking.

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