The Signature Line on Checks is Not a Line at All

May 4, 2011 at 2:00 am 5 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

Although personal checks are antiquated by modern payment standards, they still have some valid uses. For example, they’re still popular for personal and bill payments by mail. They’re also used to dodge online transaction fees to pay friends or submit payments for online auctions.

Turning a blank line into any amount of money has obvious fraud potential. Unlike most currency, the paper itself is not particularly special. However, the print on the paper has some security features built in.

Photocopying is thwarted in a couple of ways. First, the light blue ink is a specific color of blue that does not photocopy well.

There is also a feature called micro-security print, usually indicated with an “MP” (micro-security print) logo on the signature line. The logo indicates that very tiny print is present. While the signature line looks like an ordinary horizontal line, it is actually made up of very small repeating print, “AUTHORIZED SIGNATURE.” This text is extremely small; so small that it will become completely blurry and unreadable if it is photocopied.

The next time you see a check, try reading the fine print.

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Sources: 4checks.com, Yahoo! Answers

Entry filed under: Around The House, Money. Tags: , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stephanie  |  May 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    totally cool – I’d never noticed that the signature line wasn’t a line at all! one of my actually reads “original document” instead though

    Reply
    • 2. info  |  December 16, 2013 at 11:27 am

      It only authorized you the physical adult to pay bills based on your straw man, if you look at your check it has your name in all caps…

      Reply
  • 3. Ryan  |  May 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Awesome! I always wondered what the “MP” at the end of the signature line stood for.

    Reply
  • 4. Robert the Skeptic  |  May 8, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Interesting additional note, the little vertical blue line at the end of the payee line and just before the dollar sign $ was implemented in the check design in preparation for the (a href=”http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/endicott/endicott_chronology1970.html”>IBM 3895 which was developed in 1977 to OCR read the hand written amount.

    This was supposed to eliminate the need for “proof operators” who actually encode the MICR dollar amount written on the check so the computer could read the amount.

    Unfortunately, the reject rate for the IBM 3895 was about 50% and the additional time and costs associated for reprocessing the unintelligible handwriting rejected checks was more costly than fast and proficient Proof Operators.

    Even today, checks are read by human Proof Operators and encoded by hand before they are read by the computer. Electronic banking has reduced the number of paper items significantly and the IBM 3895 can retire to computer history.

    [Robert was an Operations Analysts for US Bank for 12 years and worked on the IBM 3895 project.]

    Reply
  • 5. DNA  |  May 11, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    I print my own checks because I am not a sucker. And no, they don’t have a silly microprinted line that nobody looks at anyway.

    Reply

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