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What Bad Checks Look Like

There is no way to tell if a check has insufficient funds to cover it just by looking. To guard against these checks you need a plan and a system. However, checks that have been altered, counterfeited, or are being used in an identity fraud can be more easily detected. Look at the table below that lists the things to look for, and whether they indicate that a check has been altered, counterfeited, or is being used in an identity fraud. Click on the indicators for more information.

The check does not have at least one perforated edge.
The check number (on the upper right-hand corner) is low.
The word "VOID" appears across the check.
There are stains or spots on the check.
The signature microprint line appears as a dotted line rather than legible words.

The Federal Reserve Bank has a very good brochure that explains in more detail what to look for to determine if a check is good or not, as well as descriptions of the more common types of check fraud. Click here to see the brochure (you must have the Adobe Acrobat reader). Get Adobe Acrobat reader.

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