In our world of credit cards and direct deposit, it may seem like check printing and processing has gone the way of the dinosaurs. But checks are still used by people and companies every single day. In fact, millions of checks are still processed every year and many companies rely on check processing for their financial transactions. Sure, you may not send as many checks in the mail as you used to, but checks are still a relevant—and vital—part of our economy.
For as long as there have been checks, however, there’s been check fraud. No financial process is ever 100 percent safe, but through advanced security features and measures, banks and financial institutions have made checks much safer. Through features such as micro printing, thermochromatic ink, and watermarks, checks are one of the most secure ways that you can send or receive money.
Here, we’re taking a closer look at the world of check printing and processing and how experts make this type of financial transaction more secure. We also discuss some of the latest check security features and offer you a few tips on how to make your checks more secure and avoid the potential for check fraud. By being smart and prepared, you can easily keep your financial transactions safe and secured.
WHAT IS CHECK FRAUD?
To begin, let’s start by answering the essential question: what exactly is check fraud? Let’s break it down. Fraud refers to an action when a person deliberately deprives another person (or company or organization) of money through deceptive means. Check fraud, then, is committing fraud by using checks.
There are many different ways that a fraudster could commit check fraud. Theft, of course, is one primary way that check fraud is committed, which is why it’s always important to secure your checks (and other financial documents) in a safe area. Forgery is another common type of check fraud, which happens when someone signs or endorses a check without the proper authorization.
More advanced types of check fraud include washing, where the individual uses chemicals to remove certain information from a check, or a method referred to as “paper hanging,” where they purposefully write checks on a closed account. Some fraudsters will even create counterfeit checks, which has become increasingly common as digital tools make this process even more accessible.
IS CHECK FRAUD STILL A PROBLEM?
In recent years, the number of checks used for payments has dramatically decreased. This only makes sense as debit and credit cards, and now payments apps like Venmo, have become increasingly popular and easy-to-use. However, whenever checks are issued, there still exists the potential for fraud. In recent years, check fraud has even become more of an issue as fraudsters have access to advanced digital technologies and tools. These tools make it easier to reproduce checks, chemically alter them, or counterfeit their own fraudulent checks. This is why it’s so important for banks to stay up-to-date and continually advance their check security features. The security of your funds depends on it.
WHAT ARE SOME CHECK SECURITY FEATURES?
While check fraud is certainly still an issue, advanced security measures are consistently developed to help prevent check fraud and make checks safer and more secure. Various components of a check, referred to as security features, work to prevent fraud, making it more difficult for potential fraudsters to produce counterfeit checks or alter real ones.
Here are some of the most effective check security features:
- Thermochromatic ink: this special type of ink is designed to disappear when rubbed or exposed to heat and is one of the quickest and easiest ways for bank officials to verify the authenticity of a document or check.
- Micro printing: micro printing is commonly found on signature lines or the borders of checks. This tiny and specialized type is legible when put under magnification and it becomes blurred if the check has been copied or scanned.
- Watermarks: a watermark is pressed onto a check (or other documents) as it’s being produced. Dual-tone watermarks are visible when held up to the light and are virtually impossible to scan or reproduce. Watermarks are one of the most effective ways to combat counterfeit checks and to verify authenticity.
- Chemical reactive paper: when treated with bleach, oxidizers, or other solvents, chemically reactive paper will reveal a blue or brown mark, also known as a “stain.” This dramatically reduces the potential for check washing.
- Visible fibers: additional fibers may be added to the check during its production. These visible fibers, which may be placed on the sides, back, or front, can be different colors and densities and are easily visible to the eye.
- Security holograms: some checks may even include security holograms, similar to those you would see on a passport or driver’s license. This is one of the more advanced check security features.
- Toner adhesion: some checks are printed on a specialized type of paper that anchors down printer toner. This makes it virtually impossible for someone to remove information or chemically wash the check without the paper being damaged.
CONCLUSION – WHAT ARE SOME CHECK SECURITY FEATURES?
While many of us may not use too many checks these days, check printing and processing is still a vital part of the economy. With millions of checks processed every year, countless businesses still rely on this type of financial transaction to pay their vendors, conduct payroll, and simply operate day to day. Checks may not seem as vital as they once were, due to the rise of digital financial transactions, but checks are still critical for our economy.
But how do you ensure that you’ve sent or received a secure check? While check fraud is still a prevalent problem, financial institutions continue to develop advanced security features to cut down on fraud and make check writing and processing much safer. With features such as thermochromatic ink, watermarks, and micro printing, you can rest assured that checks are becoming safer with each year to ensure your funds are safe.