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VERIFY: Why are property checks payable to a person, not a government office?

5 On Your Side viewer and city resident Ellie Bowen worries writing a check in someone's name instead of their business means it could be stolen.

ST. LOUIS — Residents in the city of St. Louis pay the Collector of Revenue for their property tax. These checks must be made payable to an individual rather than the government office.

5 On Your Side viewer Ellie Bowen wanted to know why and if there are safeguards in place to protect against embezzlement.

Question:

Is it true that writing a check directly to the Collector of Revenue in the City of St. Louis makes it vulnerable to theft?

Sources:

-Missouri County Collectors Association
-Collector of Revenue for St. Louis

Answer:

Checks in Missouri can be made out in the collector’s name. It does not make the money more vulnerable to theft.

Background:

According to Missouri state law, checks made out to a collector are considered payable to the collector’s office.

Historically, collectors handled public money through their personal accounts.

"As far as county collectors go throughout the state…Several of them, I suspect, still use that method of payment directly to them, and most of that is just basically steeped in just tradition,” said Brian McCollum from the Missouri County Collector’s Association.

McCollum added that collectors are bonded and that makes them personally liable for the money they handle.

If money were to go missing, a surety can force the collector to pay with their own money.

The St. Louis City Collector’s Office told us collectors are the most audited department in local government.

What can the 5 On Your Side VERIFY team factcheck for you? Let us know: email us at verify@ksdk.com or fill out the form below.

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