U.S. Treasury Check Scam

The new relief law is set to combat the economic crash related to COVID-19, and Americans expect to see stimulus checks in their mail boxes or bank accounts in the coming weeks.

However, because many receive funds from the U.S. Treasury via check, there will inevitably be an uptick in check scams, as fraudsters hope to make extra cash. There are already fraudsters trying to scam people by sending out bad checks, as they print and send checks that look similar to the U.S. Treasury’s.

Here are some helpful tips to help you understand what a check scam is and what security features the U.S. Treasury has implemented so that you can cash your check with ease.

What is a Check Scam?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, a fake check scam consists of an individual sending you a check for more money than you anticipated, and requesting that you send money back, usually via wire. The scammers typically explain away the over payment, but entice you to cash the check by avoiding taxes, fees or something similar.

They anticipate you depositing the check and wiring the money quickly - too quickly to notice that the check may look odd. By the time the bank discovers the check is bad, the scammer is long gone with your money, and you’re left paying back the bank.

Check scams have been around for a while, however, the FTC reports that there is a steady increase in scams over recent years, especially around tax season or when there are nation-wide checks being issued by the government. 

U.S. Treasury Check Security Features

As you are on the lookout for check scams, the U.S. Treasury has built-in security features on their checks to help you decipher whether or not your check is fraudulent. Here are some things to look out for on a U.S. Treasury check, so that you can tell the difference between the real deal and a fake check.


Example of U.S. Treasury Check


One thing to take note of on a U.S. Treasury check is microprinting, which are words printed so small they appear as a line. However, under a magnifying glass, the line is revealed to be tiny text that cannot be duplicated by an ordinary copier. When a check is counterfeit, this microprint will appear as a solid line or series of small dots. Currently, there are three areas microprinting is utilized: bottom line above the Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) line, signature line on the back of check, and on the garment of Lady Liberty. 


Example of Micriprinting

Treasury Seal

Another security feature of a U.S. Treasury check is the seal. The U.S. Treasury has a distinct seal, which states the “Bureau of Fiscal Services.” There is also an old seal that is still in rotation that states, “Financial Management Services.” Any other seal will expose the check to be fraudulent.

Example of Treasury Seal

Bleeding Ink

The U.S. Treasury also instituted bleeding ink for the treasury seal. When moisture is applied to the seal, the ink will “bleed” red, proving that it is an authentic check from the U.S. Treasury.


Example of Bleeding Ink on U.S. Treasury Seal 


Watermarks are another security feature the U.S. Treasury employs to ensure their checks are authentic. The watermark you can look out for reads “U.S. Treasury,” which is visible from the front and back of the check when held up to a light. The sheerness of this watermark makes it so that it cannot be reproduced by a copier. Any check you receive that does not have this distinct watermark is fraudulent.


Example of Watermark on Treasury Checks

Ultraviolet Overprinting

For those that might have a black light, you can find ultraviolet overprinting on the right and left-hand side of the check. On the right is the United States eagle and on the left is four lines of “FMS,” with the FMS seal bordering both sides.  


Example of Ultraviolet Overprinting

When it comes to deciphering whether a check is fraudulent, relying on security features should be your first line of defense! These features are in place so that you can rest assured knowing that you are not depositing bad funds into your account.

If you believe that you have come across a check that is fraudulent, contact the U.S. Department of Treasury. Remember: the government will never ask for a payment to be made in return or send a check for an amount greater than you are to receive. Checks will always come from the United States Treasury and not any other entity.

Blackhawk Bank wants you and your family to stay safe and secure. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you!


Jessica Hendon
VP Physical & Information Security