Check forgery is the act of falsifying a negotiable written instrument in order to collect money that does not belong to the forger. This type of check fraud is generally encountered in three ways: forged signatures on real checks, check washing, and fake checks. In most countries, this type of embezzlement is illegal and the liability may fall on the person cashing the check unless the forger is brought to justice.
One common type of check forgery deals with falsified signatures on real checks. This happens most often when a blank check is stolen. The thief forges the account holder's name on a check and uses it to acquire goods or cash the check for money. Canceling checks as soon as checks are missing or stolen is one method to prevent this type of forgery from happening.
Another method of check forgery is known as check washing. This process involves stealing a legitimate check while in transit from one party to another, usually through mail theft, and using it for fraud. The fraud occurs when the forger erases all inked information except for the signature and changes the payee name to the forger's name. The forger may also increase the amount substantially. This falsified check is then taken to a bank to be cashed.
A similar technique to check washing involves altering written details on a check. This crime happens when a check is legitimately written out to a forger for a specified amount. In this case, care is taken by the forger to match the color of ink used by the check writer in order to change the payment amount on the check. This is done by adding and altering numbers and doing the same to the spelled-out sum on the check.
Fake checks are less common in the world of check forgery, but can be more difficult to detect. In this instance, a forger creates a check, adding realistic account and routing information. This forged check is passed off as a legitimate check in exchange for goods or cash.
Laws prosecuting check forgery vary from country to country. In most cases, a bank or business catches the misleading check because employees are trained to spot forgeries. In some situations, the person cashing the check, even if unknowingly handling a falsified check, may be held liable for the loss. Taking the check forger to court is the most common way of getting the funds replaced.