One of the best ways to confirm the authenticity of a cashier’s check is to ensure the check has proper watermarking.(1) A recent batch of counterfeit cashier’s checks bearing the name of an Illinois bank reproduced on the front of the check the words, “THIS DOCUMENT HAS A GRADUATED BACKGROUND DARK TO LIGHT. THE REVERSE SIDE INCLUDES AN ARTIFICIAL WATERMARK.”
Only, the reverse side did not include such a watermark. It’s almost as if the thieves were counting on people reading the assurances on the front of the check, and not confirming this watermarking further.
Common Sense Precautions
By asking that a cashier’s check be drawn from a bank local to the recipient, rather than via an institution from another state or country, an individual can more easily verify the authenticity of the document.(2) Not to mention the speed of the overall banking transaction. Potential recipients can also consult the FDIC’s Institution Directory to make sure the bank that a cashier’s check is issued from is a legitimate and solvent operation.
Another reason to insist that the transaction be sourced through a local bank is that there is no national U.S. standard for cashier’s checks. Various banks have different color schemes, different check sizes, and other variances, making it impossible to authenticate even if fake watermarks are affixed.(3) Government websites are good sources of information about widespread con artist scams, but individual things like knowing whether an unfamiliar bank lists or does not list their address on a cashier’s check is next to impossible.
The Collection Option
There is usually a fee for this process, but if an individual enlists their bank to “collect” the check on their behalf, they handle it at their end and only notify the payee once the funds have been fully paid.(4) The downside is that this type of bank-to-bank transaction can take up to eight weeks.
Alternatively, fraudsters may put a phone number or address on the cashier’s check that is tied to an accomplice. To verify any cashier’s check from a stranger, recipients should always rely on a branch phone number that has been independently obtained.
(1) Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – “Counterfeit Cashier’s Checks”, May 15, 2006, Retrieved July 6, 2011 from http://www.fdic.gov/news/news/SpecialAlert/2006/sa06142.html
(2) American Bankers Association – “If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Is”, Retrieved July 6, 2011 from http://www.aba.com/abaef/cashierscheckfraud.htm
(3) Office of the Comptroller of the Currency – “Counterfeit Cashier’s Checks of Rockport National Bank, Rockport, MA”, October 15, 2005, Retrieved July 6, 2011 from http://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/alerts/2005/alert-2005-15.html
(4) Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond – The Counterfeit Cashier’s Check, Retrieved July 6, 2011 from http://www.richmondfed.org/banking/education_for_bankers/fraud_awareness/counterfeit_cashiers_check/index.cfm