How Scotch Tape could cost you $100K

Fraud & Security / August 4, 2015

I was recently at a conference in San Francisco for Intuit Premier Resellers. Since it’s a reseller channel, we are regularly updated with business trends and how they relate to items we can sell, and this specific presentation was about checks.

As part of the presentation, I received a book called The Art of the Steal by Frank W. Abagnale. You may know the name – he is the author of Catch Me if you Can – which was made into a movie starring Leonardo DeCaprio.

The Art of the Steal was written to protect people and their businesses from fraud. In the book. Frank details some of the ways that businesses can be hit with fraud, and I was really blown away by how easy it is to do what’s called “washing a check”.

First I need to explain how the process starts. Most of the printers we use today are laser printers. These differ from dot matrix, ink jet, and even typewriters in how they lay ink down on any type of paper. Laser printers “lay” the ink on top using heat to attach the ink to the paper. The other three methods actually inject ink or impact ink onto the paper.

A thief who wants to defraud you via a check can use Scotch tape to do it. This process is called washing, in part because sometimes both Scotch tape AND acetone (nail polish remover) are used. They’ll take a check and a piece of Scotch tape, the gray cloudy kind that doesn’t pull up the paper when you use it, and place the tape carefully on top of the payee, then the date, dollar amount and amount line. Then they scratch, using a fingernail or a coin, over top of the laser print. It’s kind of like a lottery ticket in reverse. The tape pulls the laser printing right off the check. If there’s any residue of toner left over, all they have to do is use a dental pick, toothpick, small X-Acto knife, or even an eraser to pull it up. The signature line is left alone. Now, Voila’! Here is a signed, blank check for someone to fill in at their discretion.

And if they fill it in for $100,000, then that $2.69 roll of Scotch tape just cost you $100K.

So what do you do? The first and most efficient way to stop these types of thieves is to have checks that are chemically treated to withstand these sorts of fraud attacks. The plain paper checks you receive from the bank or even order from a check printer are not devised to thwart the thief. They are basic checks.

If you have checks that look like this – in purple, green, yellow, red, or pink, where there are soft color and no markings, then you have basic checks like the ones on the clip on the right.

Premier checks are made to withstand many types of fraud, including our Scotch tape example with a technology called toner adhesion, which makes pulling up the toner with tape nearly impossible. They also have features like chemically reactive paper, invisible fluorescent fibers, microprinting, and a prismatic color background.

Back to the reseller conference, I started with above. In addition to the software and hardware I can sell, Intuit has extended the product offering to include checks, deposit slips, and deposit stamps. I was previously able to extend a 30% discount on the orders, but now am able to increase that discount to 35%. For a custom quote, just call our office at 770-554-5414. We’ll need a blank check faxed over and then the new secure checks are mailed directly to your office.

So what areas can you improve in your business besides checks to help decrease your chance for fraud? Find out in our next article.