Here’s today’s little lesson on altered checks.
Altered checks are not to be confused with counterfeit checks. (You can find my post about counterfeit checks here) Counterfeit checks start from the ground up with check stock that is either bought or stolen and then made to look like a legitimate negotiable instruments. An altered check is taking a check that is already written out and changing things on it, such as the PAYEE LINE, the amount of the check on both the legal line and blank box, even the date.
So, how do the bad guys change things like who the check is made out to? Well the can use a method called check washing. Celtic Kane has a very in depth article on how to do this, but i’m just going to say it right now DON’T DO IT! It’s illegal! It is good to see what happens though. The downside of check washing is that it can change the consistency of the check stock. Also if you hold a washed check up to the light, you can practically see through it and also see the what was originally on the check.
Another thing check alterers will do is simply add a written value on the legal line. If you look below I’ll show the progression of what happens.
First here is the wrong way to write out a check
Here is what happens when a check alterer gets his/her hands on the above check. The writing in red is what the bad guy would do.
Now that’s one hell of a party I threw! I made a profit of $1,199,800 just by placing “one million” before and “thousand” after where John Doe wrote “two hundred” If a bank teller didn’t catch this if I deposited the check, and the bank itself just let it go A) that would be the dumbest bank in the world, but B) they would have to credit my account of 1.2 million because that’s what is on the legal line. Banks can’t go by what is written in the amount box. So, below is the proper way to write out a check.
That’s much better, although I would surely love the 1.2 million. By writing the “two hundred” all the way to the left of the legal line, this prevents anyone from trying to cram in a number before the amount. The long line drawn after the “two hundred” prevents anyone from adding anything after the amount.
Another thing you can do, in regards to check washing, is to purchase a secure pen such as at Office Depot. These pens will help aid in preventing fraudsters from lifting your signature or altering anything else on the check.
I hope this was helpful. If anyone else has tips, please feel free to share. In the meantime, pass this along to your friends.
See you soon!