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Combating Check Fraud—the Teller's Perspective | SAFEChecks | Articles

Combating Check Fraud—the Teller's Perspective

There are several things tellers and cashiers can do to help reduce and prevent check fraud. In fact, they are the “front lines” in the fight against it.

First, if a check has a warning banner on its face, READ IT and follow what it says. If certain security features are listed, then LOOK FOR THOSE FEATURES and don’t accept the check if they are missing or appear to be altered. Companies pay a premium to have security features included on their checks, and it is appropriate for the teller to take a few extra moments to review and honor these warning banners. This absolutely helps prevent fraud, and is an important way a vigilant teller can keep an altered check from entering the system.

(Please note that some “warning” banners are not specific regarding their security features….)

Things to look for in an altered check:
  • Discoloration, stains or speckles on the face or the back of the check. Discoloration indicates chemical “washing”, where the criminal has used chemicals to dissolve the ink from the face of the check and replace it with false information.
  • Dollar amounts or payee names that do not line up, or that have spacing or a font style that is inconsistent. This misalignment can indicate that the original information may have been “lifted” off, and replaced with false information.
  • Payee names that have been added beside or above the original name, with the check being cashed by that second person. This second name may have been added fraudulently.
  • A check that looks like it is a photocopy. As ludicrous as this may sound, tellers have been known to accept checks that were clearly photocopies, and had the word “void” on the face of the check. This indicates that the check carried a copy void pantograph, an important security feature which was ignored by the teller.
  • Checks that are written in pencil. Yes, it seems obvious to not accept a check written in pencil, but it has been done….
  • The dollar amount written out in letters much match the amount written in numbers. (e.g. “$200” must match “two hundred.”
  • “Laid lines” (thin, parallel lines, sometimes of varying widths, on the back of the check) that do not match up. If they don’t match, then a “cut and paste” alteration could have occurred.

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