Counterfeit check scams are increasing, and the scammers are constantly finding ways to target the vulnerable.  Being able to recognize the features of a phony check and remembering not to deposit it in your account will help to deter check scammers. What should a person look for to determine if a check is legitimate or not?

1.  Notice the edges of the check:  A legitimate check has one rough edge.  Most fake checks have four smooth edges.  This is because many are printed on a computer.

2. No check number:  It’s surely fake if there is no number in the upper right hand corner.  In addition, if the check number doesn’t match the number on the MICR line at the bottom, it’s a fraudulent check, for sure.

3. No street address:  If you don’t see a bank street address, just a post office box, you should be suspicious – call the bank to find out.

4.  Check out the paper:  A somewhat thicker paper is used for authentic checks.  Bad checks are usually thinner and a bit slippery.

5.  The amount of the check:  A fraudulent check is almost always for less than $5,000.  There are federal rules that mandate that funds under $5,000 need to be available to the depositor within five days.  You may think that the check has cleared, when it hasn’t.  You may be able to withdraw the money, but it can take several weeks for the bank to discover the forgery and then it bounces.

6.  Check the MICR line and routing number:  The MICR (magnetic ink character recognition) numbers at the bottom of an authentic check look dull, while those numbers on a phony one look shiny.  Look at the routing number, which should have nine digits.  Take note if it  has more or less than nine, or has no routing number at all.

7.  Take a good look at the bank logo:  If the logo is unclear, it was probably copied from a photo from the internet.

The good scammer can be clever.  If you are in possession of a check from a suspicious, unknown sender, look closely at it, considering the seven tips given.  If it seems to fit one or more of the criteria for a fake check, don’t deposit it and report the incident to the authorities.