My predicament:

United States, father passed away, mother is disabled. I've been here for a few weeks taking care of all of their affairs, including filing the life insurance claim. Apparently, the insurance company will be mailing my mom a check, a paper check, for a six figure payout **

The big problem is that I live a full day's travel away and I won't be here when it arrives, and my mom cannot walk or even open an envelope. She will only have non-family caregivers with her whom we don't really know. I am scrambling and need to go home for a while to tend to my own affairs but then I intend to return but it could be 2 or 3 weeks after the check has been delivered and it'll have been sitting in the house.

My concern:

That the check would fall into the wrong hands and be cashed by someone other than my mom.

Is that possible? Would any bank let the wrong person cash a six figure check?

** I made a mistake when I filed the claim; I checked the "send a check" box on the form instead of "put it in some kind of account", but I expected it would come right away. It has already been 2 weeks!

  • Perhaps a more interesting question is whether a bank would even let a person cash a 6-figure check, given various laws about cash transactions over $10K. And of course ordinary prudence...
    – jamesqf
    Apr 26, 2020 at 4:25
  • 1
    @jamesqf I think "cashing" the check is used here to mean "depositing", not literally getting stacks of Benjamins.
    – nanoman
    Apr 26, 2020 at 6:07
  • @nanoman: But depositing a very large check (or even a rather small check) belonging to someone else into your account leaves pretty obvious traces. Which means you either get caught, or you have to quickly withdraw the money (in some untraceable form) and decamp for parts unknown.
    – jamesqf
    Apr 26, 2020 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


Let's answer your questions and address your dilemma.

Can a person cash a check made out to someone else?

Not legally unless the addressee explicitly makes it over to them. Doing so would be a serious crime.

But is it possible that someone could do it, legally or not?

It's possible, but it would require some deliberate criminal effort and planning. The check is almost certainly marked so it can only be paid into an account, not exchanged for cash. Most people would not do it, even if the potential rewards are great. Also the sender can usually find out who cashed a check, and the police can track them down.

So here is how I would suggest dealing with this:

  1. Get the company to send the check by registered mail that requires a signature and/or records exactly when and where it is delivered
  2. Tell your mother's helpers that you are expecting an important document and that it is to be handed over to you personally unopened. The risk of them knowing something valuable is coming is far outweighed by the knowledge that they will be scrutinised if it goes astray.
  3. Get the company to tell you as soon as the check is delivered.
  4. When you know it has been delivered call you mother's home and check it has been received
  5. Go and pick it up as soon as possible, or get them to hand it over to someone you trust. Pay it into a bank as soon as possible.

The reason I would not worry about the helpers stealing the cheque is that a) most people are honest b) even if they are not they know the penalties for doing so are very severe, including jail time, and their chance of success is low. This is helped by your knowing exactly who was in the house when the check was received and who received it. If someone tries it is very likely that they will be caught and the money recovered.

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