Check fraud is one of the largest challenges facing businesses and financial institutions today. With the advancement of computer technology, it’s increasingly easy for criminals, either independently or in organized gangs, to manipulate checks in such a way as to deceive innocent victims expecting value in exchange for their money.
Victims include financial institutions, businesses that accept and issue checks, and the consumer. In most cases, these crimes begin with the theft of a financial document. It can be perpetrated as easily as someone stealing a blank check from your home or vehicle during a burglary, searching for a canceled or old check in the garbage, or removing a check you have mailed to pay a bill from the mailbox.
Tips For Detecting Counterfeit Checks:
- COLOR - By fanning through a group of returned checks, a counterfeit may stand out as having a slightly different color than the rest of the checks in the batch.
- PERFORATION - Most checks produced by a legitimate printer are perforated and have at least one rough edge. However, many companies are now using in-house laser printers with MICR capabilities to generate their own checks from blank stock. These checks may have a micro-perforated edge that is difficult to detect.
- MICR LINE INK - Most, but not all, forgers lack the ability to encode with magnetic ink the bank and customer account information on the bottom of a check. They will often substitute regular toner or ink for magnetic ink, which is dull and non-reflective. Real magnetic ink applied by laser printers is the exception and may have a shine or gloss.
If a counterfeit MICR line is printed or altered with non-magnetic ink, the banks sorting equipment will be unable to read the MICR line, thus causing a reject item. Unfortunately, the bank will normally apply a new magnetic strip and process the check. This works to the forger’s advantage because it takes additional time to process the fraudulent check, reducing the time the bank has to return the item. But banks cannot treat every non-MICR check as a fraudulent item because millions of legitimate checks are rejected each day due to unreadable MICR lines.
- ROUTING NUMBERS - The nine-digit number between the colon brackets on the bottom of a check is the routing number of the bank on which the check is drawn. The first two digits indicate in which of the 12 Federal Reserve Districts the bank is located. It is important that these digits be compared to the location of the bank because a forger will sometimes change the routing number on the check to an incorrect Federal Reserve Bank to buy more time.