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Is that a fake check? Here’s how to find out.

Author: John C. Fredrickson
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Checks and cashier checks are still common forms of payment, but they, are increasingly used in fraud schemes.  Technological advances, such as high quality photocopiers, permit con artists to produce very convincing counterfeits and reproductions that often pass for genuine.  These fake instruments often contain information from real banks, depositors and their accounts, which makes the deception more believable. These facts of modern life make it good practice to exercise caution when accepting a check or cashier’s check.   Fortunately, technology can protect consumers as well.  However, the problem remains that many consumers are not familiar with the safety features of modern checks and these features are not utilized uniformly. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself:         

Take a moment to examine the check.  If the front of the check indicates either by a small padlock icon or words like “Security Features Included—Details on Back”, then you should make certain the back of the check includes a description or list of security features.  If there is no list of security features, the check is likely a fake.  The list of security features is typically printed in small font and in light-colored ink that can be difficult to read.  Do not hesitate to use a magnifying glass.

If the back of the check contains a description of security features, you should verify that they are actually present on the check.  Common security features include:  watermarks, patterns in the background or specific areas of the check, microprint lines, and the padlock or another icon  printed on the front and/or back.  If you do not find all of the security features that are listed on the check, do not accept it and do not cash it.

Make a color photo copy of both sides of the check to expose security features.  A decent photo copy will reveal other security features such as the word “Void” or changes in color or pattern background from the original.  If the photocopy reveals features like these, do not accept or cash the check. 

If you have doubts about the check, do not deposit it or advance funds against it. Instead, you should take it to your bank and ask them to inspect it.  Resist the urge to call any telephone number that appears on a questionable check.  Those numbers often connect with the schemers who will gladly assure you that the check is good.

If you have been denied payment because of a fake check, if your business has been victimized or if a bank has reversed a transaction because you unknowingly deposited a fake check, you should consider contacting an attorney to determine if you have recourse against the bank or are eligible for recovery under your insurance policy.  For more information please contact John Frederickson at (301) 251-1180 x 314 or JFredrickson@McMillanMetro.com