Real Check Stubs vs. Fake Ones—How to Recognize Them

Real Check Stubs vs. Fake

It is easy to forge legal documents these days, and that includes pay stubs. In fact, technology has made it even more difficult to distinguish real check stubs vs. fake ones.

That doesn’t make it an excuse, however, to remain oblivious or clueless about how to not fall victim to counterfeit paychecks. When you get caught using or accepting fake pay stubs, you risk facing serious legal action and, worse, losing your business.

Fortunately, this article will equip you with all the helpful tips you need to spot bogus check stubs and steer clear of scams and other unlawful activities.

Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Check stubs are used by employees, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors.
  • Some of the characteristics of a fake pay stub include round or whole values, interchanging ‘O’ and ‘0’, inconsistent font types and details, crooked lines, etc.
  • You can report the use of fake pay stubs to the police or file a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
  • Violators caught using fake pay stubs, particularly while knowingly using them to commit bank fraud, are subject to a fine of not more than $1,000,000 or face up to 30 years of imprisonment.

Who Needs Check Stubs & Why?

Employees, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors need check stubs.

Check stubs, also called pay stubs, paychecks, or earnings statements, are documents created and issued by employers to their employees. Paychecks enumerate all the essential information about an employee’s gross and net wages, the number of work hours they have rendered in a given pay period, and their tax withholdings, benefits, and contributions.

Unlike regular employees, self-employed individuals and independent contractors need to generate their pay stubs themselves since their clients or employers do not issue the said document on their behalf.

Pay stubs provide evidence that employees have completed the work they are expected to do, and employers compensate them accordingly in return. In that sense, you can also think of check stubs as recurring agreements between employers and their staff.

Check stubs serve as proof of income, which could be useful when apartment hunting or applying for a loan. Landlords and loan application officers use earnings statements to assess an applicant’s capacity to fulfill their payment obligations in a consistent and timely manner.

Most property owners and loan officers have become stricter in assessing applicants’ credentials. As such, applicants without a permanent income source tend to create fake pay stubs to qualify for their desired loan or rental property.

There are also scammers who try to swindle unsuspecting victims by issuing falsified wage statements and other financial documents.

6 Indicators of Fake Check Stubs

Fake Check Stubs

Here is a quick breakdown of the most common indicators of a fake check stub:

#1. Round Numbers

Pay stubs rarely contain round numbers such as $2,000 or $3,000. The resulting net or gross value on employee paychecks always contains decimal points, especially if it reflects hourly rates.

Calculating all the gross and net values factors in tax withholdings, voluntary contributions, and other deductions is distinct for each employee. Hence, a perfectly whole number in a check stub means that the values were made up.

#2. Letter “O” Instead of “0”

People who falsify check stubs care less about the small details, thinking that they will go unnoticed. Interchanging the letter ‘O’ with the number ‘0’ is a typical error that you would see in a fake earnings statement.

#3. Sloppy Format

Real pay stubs look professional, neat, and easily readable.

However, on fake paychecks, you will see font types that you would not typically see in a business document. You will also notice that the text is not aligned. There may even be broken or crooked lines and blurry portions of the text.

#4. Inconsistencies

Are the fonts used throughout the document the same? Is the Social Security Number indicated on the pay stub the same as in all the other documents presented by the applicant?

You might also want to check for typos and take time to double-check the values and calculations in the pay stub. Most of the time, people who use false check stubs don’t bother to check if the calculations or values are consistent or make sense.

#5. Bogus Business or Employer Name

You can also do a thorough background check. Contact the phone number or visit the office address in the check stub to verify whether the business or employer name is correct or real.

In some cases, unemployed individuals use their former employer’s name to try and make the pretense that they are still working for the said company.

#6. Watermark

Real pay stubs contain a watermark. The watermark is a surefire indicator that the check stub is authentic because it is unique to each business or company. Also, companies use blank check stocks to print paychecks because of the added security features that help make the watermark more visible on the paper.

In contrast, fake check stubs lack a watermark.

What to do if You Receive a Fake Check Stub?

Real vs fake pay stub

If you receive one, it is best to report the fake pay stub immediately to the appropriate authorities. Reject the document, cancel the lease if the tenant is already renting on your property, and pursue legal action against the individual who used bogus check stubs.

What if you discover that your employer issues fake pay stubs?

First, try to bring this to their attention. It is possible that there were errors with the report’s formatting. Otherwise, when things escalate, it is best to head to the nearest Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in your area and file a complaint.

You can also visit their website or contact them by dialing 1-866-487-9243. You can also dial 7-1-1 to reach the telecommunications relay services if you have a hearing or speech disability.

Consequences of Using Fake Pay Stubs

In most cases, banks will share the fraudulent activity with accredited collections agencies, which effectively diminishes the applicant’s chances of being granted loans at other banks and money lending companies.

It is also crucial to note that fake pay stubs and employee verification are closely tied together. If an employer issues counterfeit paychecks, they may be setting up their employees for criminal liability.

The use of fake pay stubs qualifies as a form of bank fraud, and that’s according to Section 1344 of the U.S. Criminal Code. Violators who are caught using fabricated check stubs will be fined no less than $1,000,000 or face jail time for up to 30 years.

On top of that, fraudsters will also owe an additional sum of money to pay for the damages caused by their scam.

Final Thoughts

While times may be difficult and getting a loan or securing an apartment may be more challenging these days, it is never okay to resort to fraudulent activities.

Similarly, business owners must always see to it that they produce legitimate pay stubs that their employees can use in the future in case they need to borrow money or find a nice property to rent.

If you need help preparing pay stubs, either as an employer, an employee, or a self-employed individual, you can always maximize the use of online pay stub generators. We offer an easy-to-use generator that lets you produce legitimate check stubs for your services and employees in no time.

Real Check Stubs vs. Fake FAQ

#1. Can you fake a pay stub?

The unfortunate answer is yes; you can fake a pay stub. All you need is the help of editing software and other apps that enable you to create, duplicate, and manipulate legal documents.

#2. Can you get in trouble for using fake check stubs?

Yes. Technically, using fake check stubs also means falsifying your income and tax information. Once you get caught, you could face penalties and even jail time, depending on the severity of your violation.

#3. What does a fake paycheck look like?

A fake paycheck uses inconsistent font types, interchanges the use of the letter ‘O,’ and the number ‘0’ bears round numbers, lacks a watermark, and has a sloppy overall look.


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