Laser Check Printing: MICR Toner vs. Standard Toner

When printing checks, it’s always best to use MICR toner in a MICR printer. We don’t recommend ever using standard toner or a standard printer. Why? Because meeting ANSI standards is important. It shows that you have done your due diligence to prevent fraud, which could protect you from liability later.

MICR toner is similar to standard laser printer toner, but it includes an iron oxide additive. This allows for electronic processing and ensures compliance with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) specifications for readability. While it is possible to physically print checks with non-MICR toner, there are several important issues to consider first.

Why is MICR toner best?

Financial institutions read checks optically and/or magnetically, using MICR. But there is no guarantee that a check printed using non-MICR toner will be handled by a bank that uses optical technology. If that bank only uses magnetic technology, a non-MICR toner check may need to be processed manually or even returned as unreadable. In either case, the processing time will be increased and additional processing fees may be charged.

MICR Toner and MICR Printer

Why is it important to use a MICR printer?

Just like it is possible to print checks with non-MICR toner, it is also possible to print checks using a standard laser printer with a MICR toner cartridge. But we do not recommend that you do that. To be sure that you are meeting ANSI standards, it’s best to use MICR toner in a MICR printer when printing checks.

Manufacturers of standard laser printers cannot guarantee that the MICR line will be readable or usable, whereas MICR laser printer manufacturers can make that guarantee. In addition, MICR printers can offer a host of security features—including paper tray or printer locks—that prevent unauthorized users from printing checks. A special security cartridge, which can be removed and stored in a secure area after use, can ensure that authorized signatures, company logos and font information remains protected.

MICR = fraud prevention

Using MICR toner and a MICR printer ensures that an organization has done its due diligence to prevent fraud. An organization that does not exercise due diligence risks their own security and may be ultimately responsible for any losses that result from the fraud.

Want to keep learning about MICR? You can learn more here. Interested in seeing what we offer? Check out our check options, MICR toner & MICR printers.

*This blog post was originally published in January 2011, it was updated and republished on May 31, 2019.

History of MICR – Magnetic Ink Character Recognition

While the MICR font is clearly visible on every paper check processed today, that wasn’t always the case. Prior to the mid-1940s, checks were processed manually. As the number of checks increased, finding an automated way to process them became essential.

While the MICR font is clearly visible on every paper check processed today, that wasn’t always the case.

Prior to the mid-1940s, checks were processed manually using either the Sort-A-Matic or Top Tab Key method. As the number of checks increased, finding an automated way to process them became essential. The development of standards that could be used to ensure uniformity in financial institutions across the country was also needed. By the mid-1950s, the Stanford Research Institute and General Electric Computer Laboratory had developed the first automated system to process checks — MICR.

What exactly is MICR?

MICR stands for Magnetic Ink Character Recognition. MICR is a process by which documents are printed using magnetic ink/toner and special fonts to create machine-readable information for quick processing of paper-based payments. The 65 digit line of numbers and characters that make up the MICR line is printed in the area 0.625 inches from the bottom edge of a check.

Check example with MICR

The special MICR font that is used in North America is known as E-13B. When positioned in the proper location, the characters printed in the MICR font allow check readers to scan the appropriate bank and customer account information to facilitate automated check clearing by financial institutions.

Back to the past: the adoption of MICR

MICR – including the E-13B font printed in magnetic ink – was established as the standard for negotiable documents by the American Bankers Association (ABA) in 1958. By the end of 1959, the first checks had been printed using magnetic ink. The ABA set MICR as its standard because machines could read MICR accurately and MICR could be printed using existing technology. In addition, documents printed with MICR technology remained readable, even through overstamping, marking, mutilation and more.

In 1963, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recognized the ABA’s standards as the American standard for MICR printing. Although compliance with the standards is voluntary in the U.S., the financial industry considers them to be the definitive method by which to determine the acceptable quality of a negotiable document. Financial institutions, businesses, government agencies or other organizations who do not meet the ANSI MICR standards may be forced to pay additional fees and charges.

MICR today

To this day, businesses still depend on MICR technology for the security needed to combat the threat of check fraud, especially in the digital age.

In addition to manufacturing, printing and issuing checks, MICR technology is also used to print financial forms and related documents, such as image replacement documents (IRDs), negotiable orders of withdrawal, bank control documents, credit card invoices, insurance payment booklets and direct mail or instant rebate coupons.

Want to keep reading about MICR? You can learn more here. Interested in seeing what we offer? Check out our check options, MICR toner & MICR printers.

*This blog post was originally published on October 2011, it was updated and republished on May 28, 2019.

Laser Check Security Features & Standards: What You Need to Know

Learn about the laser check security features that checks must include in order to comply with the ANSI standards for check processing security.

Laser Check Security Standards Features

While there’s no single way to prevent check fraud, ensuring your business checks adhere to the guidelines set forth by the American National Standards Institute is a simple first step.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) oversees the development and implementation of industry consensus standards and voluntary adherence. These standards include guidelines for check processing security.

Relyco is a member of the ANSI ASC X9AB Check Processing Subcommittee–the leader in developing technical financial industry standards.

Laser Check Security Standards

To comply with the ANSI standards for check processing security, all checks must have at least three security features and at least one security feature must cover each of four areas:

  • One must be overt, such as an endorsement warning, warning band or non-negotiable stub backer
  • One must be covert, such as copy-void, fluorescent fibers or solvent reactive chemical stain
  • One must be anti-copy or designed to hinder duplication
  • One must be anti-alteration or designed to deter data modification

The security feature types can overlap; for example, microprinting is both a covert feature and an anti-copy feature, and diagonal anti-splice lines are both overt and anti-alteration.

Relyco Laser Checks

All Relyco stock laser checks — including ULTRACHEK® Laser Checks, BASICHEK® Laser Checks, MAGNACHEK® Laser Checks, PROCHEK Laser Checks, FUTURACHEK® Laser Checks, DETERACHEK® Laser Checks and ULTRASEALPressure Seal Checks — are designed with security features that prevent tampering and forgery to ensure a secure financial transaction.

Click to view which check security features are incorporated into the design of each Relyco laser check.

To Learn More

To learn more about laser check security features from Relyco, call 1-800-777-7359 or email info@relyco.com.
Protect Against Check Fraud

Security Checks vs. Positive Pay for Preventing Check Fraud

Learn about the pros and cons of security checks vs “Positive Pay” programs to help fight and prevent check fraud.

Security Checks vs Positive PayAll Relyco stock laser checks are designed with security features that prevent tampering and forgery to ensure a secure financial transaction. At the same time, many organizations rely on positive pay to help fight check fraud.

No single security method can prevent all check fraud. This section provides information about both positive pay and Relyco security features.

About Positive Pay

A service offered by financial institutions, positive pay requires verification of check number and check value before a check is processed. To do so, a business or organization electronically shares a list of all checks written with the bank. The bank verifies checks it receives against this list and clears only those checks that appear in the register. Yet even this approach has limitations.

Consider an analogy that compares two popular motor vehicle anti-theft devices: LoJack® and The Club®.

How Positive Pay Works

Think of positive pay as a LoJack® system for your business. When a thief tries to steal a car, he has no idea that it is equipped with LoJack®. The thief steals the car, and the authorities use LoJack® to track it down after the fact.

In much the same way, a thief who tries to copy or alter a check has no idea that it is “equipped” with positive pay. When the fraudulent check makes it to the bank to be cleared, it is verified against the positive pay file. If the check number and amount do not match the information on file, payment on the check is stopped.

Approximately 95 percent of all stolen cars equipped with LoJack® are recovered, compared to an overall recovery rate of just 61 percent. Still, the stolen-car owner has to undergo the initial inconvenience of a stolen vehicle, as well as the need to repair damage that may have been done by thieves prior to the vehicle’s recovery. Similarly, attempts to pass fraudulent checks from bank accounts protected by positive pay are much more likely to be detected at the bank, but the system is still far from foolproof.

For example, many positive pay programs do not look at the payee name, meaning that the name on the check can often be altered without being detected.  Also, a fraudulent check that is cashed at a bank other than the one on which it is drawn can be cleared initially, causing issues for the account holder, even if they are not ultimately held financially responsible for the fraud.

Benefits of Physical Security Checks

Now consider physical security check features such as warning bands, copy-void pantographs and chemical reactivity that may be “built in” to your check stock. Having these security features in place is akin to putting the Club® on the steering wheel of your car in that they act as a deterrent to attempts at fraud.

A thief who tries to alter or duplicate a check that has embedded security features will have a much more difficult time than they would with a non-secure check. For this reason, experienced thieves will often leave such secure checks alone, targeting those that are more vulnerable due to a lack of security features.

Just as a thief can still steal a car that is equipped with The Club®, they can also copy, forge or alter a check that has security features.  However, vehicles equipped with The Club® are four times less likely to be stolen than those without it. Like The Club®, no document security feature can prevent all check fraud, but they can deter many thieves.

To Learn More

To learn more about security features from Relyco, call 1-800-777-7359 or email info@relyco.com.

Protect Against Check Fraud

How to Prevent Check Fraud: Check Security Q&A

We sat down with Relyco check expert Deanna Dorvillier to give you a first-hand account of the reality of check fraud and some measures you can take to prevent it from happening to you.

Preventing Check FraudAs payment solution providers, we field questions from customers every day who want more information about protecting their business from the dangers of check fraud.

We sat down with Relyco check expert Deanna Dorvillier to give you a first-hand account of the reality of check fraud and some measures you can take to prevent it from happening to you.

Q: Why Should I Be Concerned About Check Fraud?

A: In my 18 years of providing my customers with the most secure documents they want, and advising on ways to make their check stock more secure, I have received hundreds of calls from companies asking how they could have been hit (for some very large sums of money) through check fraud. Fortunately, all had met their due diligence, but almost immediately, each wanted to add more security.

Q: I Have Check Security Features. How Can This Happen?

A: All checks are not created equal. When you consider the millions in check fraud registered last year alone, you have to reconsider the best way to protect your secure documents from fraud.

Anyone who claims they can 100% guarantee you won’t be a victim of fraud is sadly mistaken. Today’s counterfeiters are highly skilled at what they do. They can alter your check so completely, you won’t recognize it.

Q: How Do Banks Battle Check Fraud?

A: Most banks require a minimum of three check safety features and many are asking for more. But you also need to consider where your checks being processed. Is it a secure environment or is in an open space where anyone can grab a check? It is important to know the trail a check takes from its initial printing until it reaches the hands of the intended recipient.

Q: What Are Common Check Security Features?

A: In today’s business environment most companies want a VOID–pantograph even though it is not a particularly effective security measure. It is a deterrent. Yet many people ask how they were victims of fraud when they had a “VOID.”

You can have a watermark on the back of the check printed in opaque white ink that can be seen if the check is held at an angle or a coin is rubbed over the back activating the ink. You also might have micro-printed areas on the check. These three features can be found on most checks currently in circulation. It just isn’t enough. Is cost of the checks a factor in choosing your features?

Q: What Are Some Advanced Check Security Features?

A: Depending on your perceived need for security, and your budget, you can purchase checks with as few as three or four security features or as many as 16 or 17. If you feel safe with a stock, many of them have check security features that are more secure than a custom check you might design, and they are normally more budget friendly.

To enhance security consider a safety offers a range of security measures manufactured into the paper, not printed on later. This makes them almost impossible to alter.

Each additional feature makes your check harder to fraud, but not impossible. However, most people counterfeiting checks today tend to go with those with the fewest security features to deal with.

To learn more details about security, and how you can best protect your company’s interest, let us send you a brochure showing all the available security features, both printed on the check stock and inherent in the stock itself.

Protect Against Check Fraud

Check Fraud Statistics and Techniques You Should Know About

This post provides basics facts and information that describe the scope and pervasiveness of check fraud. Find check fraud statistics & common techniques.

 Check Fraud Statistics & Techniques

The Risk of Check Fraud

Since check fraud is illegal, it is impossible to place an exact dollar value on the amount of money stolen each year through fraud. By all accounts, however, the problem is measured in the billions of dollars annually and continues to grow each year.

This post provides basics facts and information that describe the scope and pervasiveness of check fraud.

Some Basic Check Fraud Statistics

  • The FBI estimates that losses from check fraud total $18.7 billion annually.
  • More than 500 million checks, more than a million a day, are forged annually in the U.S.
  • Because of demands on law enforcement, prosecutors fail to pursue 75 percent of bank check fraud cases, leaving most matters to be settled between the involved parties, and placing even greater emphasis on the concept of due diligence.
  • The average fraud scheme lasts 18 months before it is detected.
  • The most common method for detecting fraud is through tips from employees, customers, vendors and anonymous sources.
  • The second most common method of discovery is by accident.

Common Check Fraud Techniques

Chemical Washes

Chemical washes are used to remove toner so that new information (e.g., larger check amount, different payee) can be printed.

Relyco’s DETERACHEK® and ULTRASEAL® 100 products are printed on safety paper with a multilanguage chemical void and/or solvent reactivity, so exposing either product to most chemicals will cause indelible staining, rendering the paper useless to thieves.  Relyco’s MAGNACHEK®, BASICHEK®, and FUTURACHEK® lines are also printed on safety paper to inhibit chemical tampering.  

Toner Lift Off

Toner lift off removes toner using a razor blade or adhesive tape.

Relyco’s DETERACHEK, ULTRASEAL 100, MAGNACHEKand BASICHEK lines feature toner adhesion enhancement (or “toner grip” or “toner anchorage”), which helps prevent toner removal.

Photocopying

The mass duplication of a check through photocopying allows many checks to be cashed at different banks. Features like copy-void pantographs, microprinting, simulated watermarks, fluorescent fibers and two-color gradient pantographs make undetected photocopying of both the DETERACHEK and ULTRASEAL 100 extremely difficult.

All Relyco cut sheet stock laser checks and pressure seal check lines, including ULTRASEAL, BASICHEK, MAGNACHEK and FUTURACHEK, contain copy voids, microprinting and other document security features designed to hamper fraudulent attempts at photocopying and duplication of checks.

Stolen Account Information

What if someone does not use one of your checks at all?  Rather, they simply steal your information and print on totally different check paper. By setting the precedent that your institution uses the most secure check paper, you can clearly distinguish your organization from the criminal.

Undoubtedly, the criminals will not use high-end security check stock.  When dealing with the aftermath of the fraud, you can tell your bank that you do in fact use high-security check paper. The checks that the criminal used clearly are not equal to the standards that you use.  By doing this, you can clearly demonstrate that have done your due diligence.

Relyco can provide you with secure check printing solutions to help you maximize your institution’s efforts to prevent becoming another check fraud statistic. 

To Learn More

To learn more about secure check printing solutions from Relyco, call 1-800-777-7359 or email info@relyco.com.

Check Webinar CTA

About the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act and Image Replacement Documents

When banks create electronic check images, they scan the checks to create electronic files and then destroy the original paper check. The electronic image may be reprinted onto a new type of document called an Image Replacement Document (IRD).

Image Replacement Documents

When the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (Check 21) took effect in 2004, it required that all banks be able to accept an electronic image of a check rather than the paper check itself.

Today, when banks create electronic check images, they scan the checks to create electronic files and then destroy the original paper check. The electronic image may be reprinted onto a new type of document called an Image Replacement Document (IRD) or Substitute Check. Because the IRD replaces the original check, it is a legal negotiable document, which is subject to the same conditions and regulations as an ordinary check.

Image Replacement Document compliance & security

Relyco provides IRD paper specifically designed to ensure Check 21 compliance in addition to compliance with the ANSI X9.100-140-2018 technical guidelines for size, layout, paper weight and document security. Our IRD paper is image-friendly and provides optimal scanning consistency. Moreover, the paper incorporates covert and overt security features to deliver fraud protection and is manufactured on high-quality safety paper for superior laser printer compatibility.

Our 1-up 8.5” x 11” IRD paper layout is also compatible with the Federal Reserve’s PDF delivery program for return substitute checks.

Look into our check solutions that can help you ensure compliance and security or contact us with any questions. Interested in purchasing IRD paper? Visit our online store.

*This blog post was originally published in August 2011, it was updated in June 2019.

How to Print a Check in 7 Easy Steps

Whether you own a small or large business, you can save time and money by printing your own checks. In the past, check printing was handled by large printing companies or banks, but you can print checks at your home or small business if you have access to a laser printer, blank check paper and magnetic ink/toner called MICR.

Whether you own a small or large business, you can save time and money by printing your own checks. In the past, check printing was handled by large printing companies or banks, but you can print checks at your home or small business if you have access to a laser printer, blank check paper and magnetic ink/toner called MICR.Check Printing
 
 
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
 
Things you’ll need:

 

  1. If your accounting program cannot print the MICR line of a check, you would need to purchase a software program that will allow you to create and design your own checks.
  2. The check-printing software should include or be compatible with your financial-management program so you can import the information you need to print your completed checks. Your software will walk you through a set-up process.
  3. Make sure that your check printing software and blank check stock are compatible. One important area of compatibility is the physical check size. Typically, depending on the software, the output will be for either a 3 ½” check or a 3 ⅔” check. Your check stock will need to meet the output size for everything to line up correctly. There are many options when it comes to check stock, from a variety of covert and overt security features to color choices and check placement on the sheet (top, middle, bottom). Work with one of our check experts to be sure you get the check stock you need.
  4. Your software should include magnetic ink characters. Using MICR technology when printing checks is critically important because bank scanners read the MICR when processing the checks, either optically or by scanning the MICR. If you are not using MICR toner, there is the possibility that the check will need to be processed manually or returned as unreadable. This can result in bank fees that can quickly add up. We recommend that you always use MICR toner with a MICR printer.
  5. Follow the steps to create a check in your check-writing software. Carefully review all the information on the check. Print a test page to make sure that each section of the check is correct and hold it up to your blank check stock to ensure that all the fields line up where they should.
  6. Print your check on your MICR printer with MICR toner.
  7. Banks will often process “test checks” to assure that all the MICR characters are in position, the toner density is correct and that the check is compliant with ANSI standards. Check with your bank to see if they have options available for this service so that you can confirm before you start printing checks in real time.

To learn more about printing your checks in-house and all the supplies you’ll need to get started, contact Relyco today by calling 1-800-777-7359 or reaching out to us.

*This post was originally published in April 2011. It has been updated in June 2019.

When Check Fraud Hits Close to Home: Learn How to Prevent It

While it is sometimes very difficult to identify a fraudulent check, there are things you can look for. Here are several signs that may indicate a bad check.

Check FraudWhile it is sometimes very difficult to identify a fraudulent check, there are things you can look for.

Below are several signs that may indicate a bad check. While one sign on its own does not guarantee a check to be counterfeit, the greater the number of signs, the greater the possibility that the check is bad.

  1. The check lacks perforations
  2. The check number is either missing or does not change
  3. The check number is low (like 101 up to 400) on personal checks or (like 1001 up to 1500) on business checks. (90% of bad checks are written on accounts less than one-year-old)
  4. The type of font used to print the customer’s name looks visibly different from the font used to print the address
  5. Additions to the check (i.e. phone numbers) have been written by hand
  6. The customer’s address is missing
  7. The address of the bank is missing
  8. There are stains or discolorations on the check possibly caused by erasures or alterations
  9. The numbers printed along the bottoms of the check (called Magnetic Ink Character Recognition, or MICR, coding) is shiny. Real magnetic ink is dull and nonglossy in appearance
  10. The MICR encoding at the bottom of the check does not match the check number
  11. The MICR numbers are missing
  12. The MICR coding does not match the bank district and the routing symbol in the upper right-hand corner of the check
  13. The name of the payee appears to have been printed by a typewriter. Most payroll, expenses, and dividend checks are printed via computer
  14. The word VOID appears across the check
  15. Notations appear in the memo section listing “load,” “payroll,” or “dividends.” Most legitimate companies have separate accounts for these functions, eliminating a need for such notations
  16. The check lacks an authorized signature

Relyco has helped thousands of companies with check security for more than 22 years. The company’s continuing research into fraud prevention strategies and new form technologies, as well as its membership in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) ASC X9AB* check processing committee; keep Relyco ahead as an innovative leader.

Learn more about our secure check optionsMICR toner & MICR printers. You can also call 1-800-777-7359 or contact us.