A customer walks in with a large check asking you, more specifically your business, to cash that check. The opportunity is there for you to receive a nice transaction fee, but how can you be certain the check is not counterfeit?
You finally make that sale you’ve been working on for the last few hours and the seemingly trustworthy patron would like to pay with a check. What do you? Can you accept it?
This age-old dilemma is something business owners across this country continue to struggle with: How do you verify a check?
Below are a few methods you can use to ensure you’re not falling victim to the “Catch me If you Can” scenario.
- First, take a look at the check and see which bank it is issued from. This may be obvious to some, but the next move is to call the bank and ask for assistance telling them you are calling to verify a check to ensure that there are enough funds in the account to keep it from bouncing. Do not call the number printed on the check if there is one. This is any easy way for counterfeiters to route a number to a fake banker. Rather, look up the bank online and call the number provided on the website. This gives you an added layer of certainty.
- The customer service representative at the bank can easily verify the check’s validity with two simple pieces of information – the account number and the routing number. These two critical pieces of information are enough to tell if the check is real. If they match the name on the check and the name and picture on the identification card provided but the customer, you should be good to go.
- There are some banks that will not verify checks over the phone. Rather, forcing you to go into a branch to verify the check in person. While the bank may not verify the check’s validity over the phone it will more than likely tell you whether or not the account exists. If it does exist, you may just have to take your chances. At that point, it comes down to a judgment call.
Still, even with all these ways to verify a check, there are still plenty of ways for people to pass off phony checks as real.
The check writer could have sufficient funds in the account at the time of verification, but if you don’t cash or deposit the check expediently, there is the risk that the check writer could spend the funds in the account prior to your deposit leaving you holding a worthless piece of paper. The only way to “reserve” the funds – ensure they are there no matter the timing of deposit or cashing – is to accept a cashier’s check.
Of course, if you receive a high volume of checks verifying every check on your own is inefficient and could be inaccurate. The best remedy in these instances is to use a check verification service. These services use technology to flag suspicious accounts and suspicious individuals. They are not fool-proof, but they provide a strong layer of defense.
There is no 100% fail-safe when accepting checks, but there are ways to limited the chances that you fall victim to fraud.