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Check Fraud Part 2 - Security Features

Posted by administrator on Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Check Security Features – A Primer (sidebar)


There are numerous security features available today, with new ones coming available all the time. While it would not be practical to include all the features on a single check form, the more security features your check has, the better you are protected against fraud and liability.


The best approach is to combine "overt" and "covert" features. The overt approach makes it clear to anyone looking at the check what features you have implemented, with the effect of deterring criminals and providing bank staff and your staff with an easy method of identifying tampering. Covert features are deliberately hidden to surprise and fool most would-be tamperers.


Tamper Detection and Prevention

A common approach to fraud is to alter the amount or other information on the check by erasing or using various chemicals. Some inks used on backgrounds and some papers react to these chemicals by disappearing, fading or staining in a very obvious way.


Laser printer toner is notoriously easy to remove. Some check papers are treated so that toner fuses much better to the paper. This goes by names such as "toner grip" or "toner fuse".


Beating The Color Copier

The most recent wave of fraud was brought on by the color copier. They can do such a good job, that security features beyond the copier's abilities have been developed. These include:

·         One of the most recent and exciting features uses thermochromic ink, such as TouchGuard TM used by ASAP. The ink changes color when rubbed or breathed on, and reappears when you stop. This requires no special equipment to check, and the color change characteristic cannot be reproduced using color copiers or inkjet printers.

·         Flourescence is something that color copiers cannot reproduce. Secure checks may include some printing using flourescent ink, and/or have flourescent fibers woven into the paper. While some banks have UV lights which can be used to detect that the check does not glow, many banks do not, nor do tellers typically check for this.

·         Visible fibers are also used for the same purpose. A close examination of a copied check will reveal that the fibers are only copies.

·         Depending on the type, watermarks can be viewed from one or both sides of the form when held up to light at a 45 degree angle, something that cannot be photocopied or scanned and is very difficult to duplicate.

·         A void pantograph is a special way of printing a message in the background that is not obvious to the naked eye. Because of the resolution used on many copiers, this printed message becomes very obvious when copied.

·         Microprinting is a technique where signature lines or borders are printed using such tiny text that it looks like a line, but magnified you can see the text. The text is so small, however, that current copiers cannot reproduce the text.



Several types of warnings can be used to discourage criminals and to raise alarms that something is wrong.

·         A message such as "The face of this check is blue and contains the security features listed on the back" is very effective.

·         A padlock symbol indicates that your check contains the minimum set of security features standardized by the Financial Stationers Association.

·         The "MP" symbol is used to indicate that elements of the check have been micro-printed.


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Les C. Cseh is the owner of ASAP Checks, Forms & Supplies, a check printer operating out of Alexandria Bay, NY and Perth Road, Ontario. He has been involved in financial documents since 1985, and had participated in ANS X9B standards work. He can be reached at info@asapchecks.com and at 888-85-CHECK. In addition to a variety of secure checks, the ASAP web site (http://www.asapchecks.com) offers a non-commercial section related to check processing issues called the MICR Repository.



Category: Checks / Forms / Fraud