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Scam Alert

Fake Checks

How to spot them in your mailbox

6. Paper: Fake checks are often lighter than the paper stock used for authentic checks. They also may feel slippery.

7. Signature: Stains or gaps around signatures, a digitized appearance, or many up and down pen strokes indicate the payer's John Hancock was printed from a scanned original or was forged.

8. MICR line: The bottom of every real check has a series of digits in an unusual font, representing the bank routing number, the account number and the check number, generally in that order. That special font is known as MICR, which stands for magnetic ink character recognition. These numbers can be read by specialized check-sorting machines. Real magnetic ink looks and feels dull to the touch. Fake MICR numbers are often shiny.

9. Routing number: Typically, the first nine digits of the MICR line make up the routing number, which identifies which bank issued the check. A check with no routing number or with fewer — or more — than nine digits is clearly a fake. You can verify routing numbers by going to the Federal Reserve Financial Services website.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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