Check fraud is a problem which costs businesses and financial institutions billions of dollars each year. By altering an existing check or creating a counterfeit check using stolen and/or illegally purchased account information, criminals attempt to make purchases, obtain bank account funds, or finance transactions. A 2016 Payments and Fraud Control Survey conducted by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) found that 73% of companies reported they were victims of payment fraud with the majority specifically experiencing check fraud. As businesses are routinely the targets of counterfeiters and are very likely to be the recipients of fake checks, companies often lose thousands of dollars.
“Businesses which are successfully hit once are often targeted repeatedly”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “That’s why it’s important for business owners to take preventive measures to protect their bottom line.”
BBB advises business owners to consider incorporating the following best practices and fraud protection tools in place to decrease your business’ vulnerability to fraud:
Check security measures which help ensure company checks are counterfeit resistant:
· Foil Holograms are multi-colored, 3-D holograms with specific identifying designs which cannot be reproduced by copiers and scanners.
· Watermarks and visible fibers.
· Multi-tonal pantographs which causes the word “void” to appear on checks and other aspects of the check to disappear if it is copied.
· Complex background patterns which deter “cut and paste” alterations.
· Micro-printed backs, faces and borders which are very difficult to reproduce with most printers.
Also ask if your financial institution uses automated check fraud detection tools which match account numbers, check numbers, and dollar amount values so that the financial institution can notify you should a questionable check come through the system.
On the point of sale end, it’s important for business to train their employees about the following signs of a possible counterfeit check:
· The check lacks a perforated edge. Most checks have one edge which is rough or perforated.
· The check number is missing or does not change. Any legitimate check issued by a bank has a check number.
· The customer’s address is missing.
· The bank logo is missing and/or does not match the bank routing number. You can verify routing numbers with the financial institution or verify on the Federal Reserve Bank Services website.
· The address of the financial institution is missing.
· Make sure the Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) line, which is the magnetic ink or toner used at the bottom of checks and other negotiable documents. A fake one will easily rub off, will smear when wet, or will not be shiny.
· Check the paper. Authentic checks are typically printed on matte, thicker paper.
· Stains or discolorations on the check could be an indicator of erasures or alterations.
For additional resources on how to build a better business and to find out how to network with other businesses, go to bbb.org.
Mechele Mills is the President|CEO for the Better Business Bureau Serving Central East Texas. Prior to her role at BBB, she led and consulted organizations of all sizes, managing operations, sales marketing, and personnel for both the public and private sector. She holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism/PR from the University of Texas at Tyler and a Master’s in Business Administration from Baylor University.