Value documents and cheques

What can I do to protect my cheques and value documents from forgery and counterfeiting?

Cheques, bank drafts and value documents are highly susceptible to fraud as they usually have a high value to counterfeiters.

With the increased security of chip and pin introduced in the UK for credit card security, forgers look towards weaker and less protected items.

Cheque printing is governed by APACS (see accreditation bodies) and they work closely with the high street banks to come up with standards to make the copying of these documents as difficult as possible.

There are two types of forgery methods for these documents;

  1. Printing of the entire product - from blank paper to finished, signed document ready for presentation.
  2. Alteration of existing numbers, words and account details on an existing document.

The latter is the easiest to undertake as most of the hard work has been completed already. The security paper has been sourced, the colours of the logo and security backgrounds are spot-on and the signature is already there. All you have to concentrate on is the overprinted elements which need to be changed.

So many company, corporation and institution buyers seem more focussed on the security of the item itself that they can overlook the fact that the personalization of the document is poorly protected.

It's great having an electron beam hologram origination, with UV fibre and watermarked security paper printed with split duct workings. But if the area that holds the valued information is not sufficiently protected, you are essentially making the job of counterfeiting even easier for the casual forger.

At redemption, the admin clerk is looking to make sure that the hologram is authentic, is checking the paper and print but overlooks the alteration to the payee and amount information as the area is not protected properly.

Talking about personalization, you also need to make sure that the printer used is of APACS approved quality as certain toners on laser printers are easier to 'lift' than others. This is an important consideration in itself.

So to get back to the document/cheque itself, yes, it is important to have good security protection of the general item itself. The paper, security design and security inks forms the backbone of the security and an OVD will increase the security of the item - which will make it look less appealing to the forger but you do need to concentrate on the overprinted area(s).

We recommend that the standard security APACS features are implemented such as the fugitive, invisible, solvent sensitive and water soluable inks along with a fine detail guilloche design - this will make the area more secure .. but we also recommend that you print an all over invisible ink panel (which has been mentioned by APACS before under the codename of Pimpernell) over the written areas as a secondary measure. This is invisible to the forger (unless they use a black light / UV lamp - Note: Which most of them will have!) however it is difficult to replicate easily without the correct inks and any attempt at alteration will be revealed at redemption when a UV lamp will show tampering has ocurred.

For additional security why not consider overlaying a self adhesive transparent hologram panel over the amount box? We have recommended supply of these to countries in Africa and with tremendous results.

The clear panel has an obvious holographic design and the adhesive is optically clear so that you can read what is printed underneath - however when removed it will a) Damage the substrate, b) Usually lift the printing directly underneath it, c) Damage or destuct the hologram label itself.

You do need to remember though that the security of any printed product is that ability to identify any alterations or forgeries at redemption. If a clerk doesn't know that a hologram is more than a piece of aluminium foil, then you can guess the outcome.

Cheques and value documents are usually printed using offset-litho printing methods and will use CBS1 security paper, for mor information on these methods please check out our security printing glossary.