Finance News & Insights

16 signs that check’s a fake

Internal Control / Fraud Prevention

Of course you hope a fraudulent check never crosses your desk. But do you know all the signs that should send your radar up?

Quick: Name as many signs a check is suspicious as you can think of. Then compare your list to this one issued by The National Check Fraud Center:

  1. The check lacks perforations.
  2. The check number is either missing or does not change.
  3. The check number is low (e.g., 1001 up to 1500 on business checks and 101 up to 400 on personal checks). Scary stat: 90% of bad checks are written on accounts less than one-year old.
  4. The type of font used to print the customer’s name looks visibly different from the font used to print the address.
  5. Additions to the check, such as phone numbers, have been written by hand.
  6. The customer’s address is missing.
  7. The bank’s address is missing.
  8. Stains or discolorations are visible on the check that could possibly be caused by erasures or alterations.
  9. The Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) coding is shiny. Real magnetic ink is dull and non glossy in appearance.
  10. The MICR encoding at the bottom of the check doesn’t match the check number.
  11. The MICR numbers are missing.
  12. The MICR coding does not match the bank district and the routing symbol in the upper right-hand corner of the check.
  13. The name of the payee appears to have been printed by a typewriter. Most payroll, expenses, and dividend checks are printed via computer.
  14. The word VOID appears across the check.
  15. Notations appear in the memo section listing “load,” “payroll,” or “dividends.” Most legitimate companies have separate accounts for these functions, eliminating a need for such notations.
  16. The check has no authorized signature.

So how’d you do? Which did you miss? Did we miss any warning signs? Tell us here.

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  • J Vande Werken

    #3 on the list is not a reliable indicator. If you have ever ordered checks on-line, you know that you are asked what number you would like the printing to start with as well as what date you want printed to indicate the date you opened the account. Anyone planning on committing fraud will simply order checks with a higher number and older account open date.

    With respect to #7, most of the checks that I use do not carry the bank’s address.

  • AW

    Unfortunately, sometimes there are no signs. Unknown to us someone had printed check stocks for our account containing our current address and MICR info and were very close to our current check numbers. They were cashing them across the state using fake ID’s. When I received our statement I noticed the checks that did not belong and called the bank immediately. The only difference between their check and ours were the font and the check style due to our accounting software but otherwise they looked almost identical and the forgery for our check signor was very accurate which means someone got a hold of one of our signed checks at one point in time.
    We informed the bank that we do not write checks to any individuals and that no one should be cashing any of our checks. They almost caught the people when they tried to cash another one but due to the delay while the bank was calling us for verification they left the bank hastily. A year later it happened again but the bank was wiser to our practices and they actually arrested the women who were trying to cash the fake checks. Scary to think that someone can get a hold of blank check stock and print checks matching someone else’s account.

  • Marsha

    My company uses a Positive Pay system to prevent fraudulent checks (we send the bank a file of our check numbers/amounts and they verify they are on our file before they process any checks). Any rejects that come from a third party check casher show up on a report and we advise the bank how to disposition it. This is all well and good except that our bank will accept a check copy from other banks…meaning that we will clear a “good” check when it is really a copy and the original has already been processed. I have complained to my bank about this procedure…to no avail….they say it is a common practice.