Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

Check Fraud: A Guide to Avoiding Losses

Check Security Features

Check manufacturers help deter check fraud by making checks difficult to copy, alter, or counterfeit. Some useful security measures include:

Watermarks. Watermarks are made by applying different degrees of pressure during the paper manufacturing process. Most watermarks make subtle designs on the front and back of the checks. These marks are not easily visible and can only be seen when they are held up to light at a 45-degree angle. This offers protection from counterfeiting because copiers and scanners generally cannot accurately copy watermarks.

Copy Void Pantograph. Pantographs are patented designs in the background pattern of checks. When photocopied, the pattern changes and the word "VOID" appears, making the copy nonnegotiable.

Chemical Voids. Chemical voids involve treating check paper in a manner that is not detectable until eradicator chemicals contact the paper. When chemicals are applied, the treatment causes the word "VOID" to appear, making the item nonnegotiable. Checks treated with chemical voids cannot be altered without detection.

High-Resolution Microprinting. High-resolution microprinting is very small printing, typically used for the signature line of a check or around the border in what appears to be a line or pattern to the naked eye. When magnified, the line or pattern contains a series of words that run together or become totally illegible if the check has been photocopied or scanned with a desktop scanner.

Three-dimensional Reflective Holostripe. A holostripe is a metallic stripe that contains one or more holograms, similar to those on credit cards. These items are difficult to forge, scan, or reproduce because they are produced by a sophisticated, laser-based etching process.

Security Inks. Security inks react with common eradication chemicals. These inks reduce a forger's ability to modify the printed dollar amount or alter the designated payee because when solvents are applied, a chemical reaction with the security ink distorts the appearance of the check. This makes such items very difficult to alter without detection.

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