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This Is What a Real Paper Stimulus Check Looks Like

As new payments go out, Treasury Department reveals checks’ security features to deter fraud

a stack of three example u s treasury checks for stimulus payments

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En español | Treasury Department officials have released a sample of the paper stimulus checks that are being issued in the second round of coronavirus relief payments. The checks are being mailed to eligible recipients not receiving the funds through direct-deposit or prepaid debit cards.

If Get My Payment on shows a date your payment was mailed, watch your mail for either a paper check or debit card, officials say. Some people who received paper checks last year might receive a prepaid debit card now and vice versa, the Internal Revenue Service says.

The release of a prototype of the check is intended to deter counterfeiters by showing consumers, retailers and financial institutions what a genuine check looks like, describing the watermark paper and other security features.

Under a measure signed into law Dec. 27, eligible individuals can receive a stimulus check of up to $600. Couples who file joint tax returns can receive up to $1,200. Families with children under age 17 can receive an additional $600 per child. Dependents 17 and over do not qualify for a check.

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How to Keep Your Stimulus Check Out of Scammers’ Hands

Use AARP’s calculator to determine if you are eligible for the relief money. If you’re expecting a check, here the six security features:

1. Treasury seal

The seal says, “Bureau of the Fiscal Service.”

2. Bleeding ink

The Treasury seal, to the right of an image of the Statue of Liberty, has security ink that will run and turn red when moisture is applied to the black ink of the seal.

3. Microprinting

Microprinted words are so small they appear as just a line to the naked eye. But when magnified, the words become visible. Microprinting cannot be duplicated by a copier, and when a check is counterfeited it will often show up as a solid line or a series of dots. This U.S. Treasury check has one area on the back where “USAUSAUSA” appears repeatedly in such tiny print.

4. Watermark

All stimulus checks are printed on watermark paper that reads “U.S. TREASURY,” which can be seen from both the front and back of the check when it is held up to a light. The watermark is light and cannot be reproduced by a copier. Any check not having the watermark should be suspected of being counterfeit or copied.

5. Ultraviolet overprinting

A protective ultraviolet pattern, invisible to the naked eye, consisting of four lines repeating the words “FISCAL SERVICE” will be bracketed by the Bureau of the Fiscal Service seal on the left and the U.S. seal — an eagle — on the right. This pattern usually may be found under the payee information and the dollar amount area. The FISCAL SERVICE pattern and seals can be detected under a black light. If the amount box is altered in any way, a space will be created in the ultraviolet area. When exposed to black light, the ink used in the pattern and the seal will glow. This fluorescent quality cannot be photocopied.

6. President’s name

The checks will feature these words on the lower right side of the Statue of Liberty: “Economic Impact Payment. President Donald J. Trump.”

To learn more about the security features on U.S Treasury checks, click here.

The Aim? To Disrupt and Deter Criminals

The Secret Service and the Treasury Department say their personnel are working with law enforcement partners to:

  • disrupt and deter criminal activity that could hinder an effective response to the pandemic.
  • help vulnerable organizations.
  • recover money stolen from Americans.

To report a COVID-19 related scam, people are advised to contact their local law enforcement agency or:

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 20, 2020. It has been updated with the new information on the second round of stimulus checks.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.

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