Examination of Security Features in a cheque

General Forensics Karunya S todayNovember 23, 2023

Background
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Introduction:

The investigators must analyse or verify the document that can be used as evidence in court in order to determine its legitimacy. “Questioned documents” are those that are under investigation. Examiners can obtain information on document authentication, authorship, fake currency or cheque, and the examination of printed or handwritten documents like wills with the aid of various examinations. Key information that will help focus the investigation is obtained from the review of these documents.

Cheques are the financial instrument that directs a bank to transfer a certain sum of money from the account of the bank holder to the payee or to a bearer. The most common and frequently used bank document that is most likely to be counterfeited is a cheque. For this reason, security mechanisms are incorporated into the cheques during manufacturing to guard against counterfeiting and monetary fraud. The development of technologies like enhanced scanning, colour printing, and colour copying has given thieves new opportunities to operate their counterfeiting enterprise, making the fake cheque appear genuine to the unaided eye.

In fact, the quality of counterfeits is so high that even specialists find it challenging to distinguish them with the naked eye, necessitating the use of an instrument.

Types of Security Features in Cheques:

When the cheques are manufactured and printed, security features are added to help prevent counterfeiting. To set a piece of paper apart from regular paper, they are added. These characteristics are crucial in preventing document forgery. For the layperson to be able to recognise the document on their own, certain elements must be understood. The features are included to maintain the document’s authenticity. There are some of them listed as:

  1. Design of the cheque: Each and every bank has a unique cheque design, complete with logos and background printing that allow a person to tell which bank the specific cheque is from. Each cheque includes details on the issuing bank, its branch, the branch’s address and code, holograms, etc.
  2. Colour Arrangement: When a genuine cheque is exposed to water, the colour disperses and produces a noticeable bleeding effect. The inks used to print cheques are typically soluble in water. The solvent inks are suggested for use in printing cheques and ensuring that there is no ink dissolution.
  3. Watermarks: Watermarks are inherently possible in the current cheques and are visible in transmitted light. By using dandy rollers, these watermarks are produced at the foundational stages of paper production. These frequently show the name or emblem of a bank.
  4. Features of UV (Ultra Violet) light: Each bank has a unique strategy that is obvious under a range of UV light sources due to fluorescence, and current cheques are set with specific UV highlights. These are firmly ingrained even during the printing process.
  5. Microscopic characteristics: At the moment, the cheques have a miniature scale imprinted on them. It is quite simple to state that the underlining on a cheque for the compensation segment, date segment, rupee segment, or total box are not basic lines but rather a series of microprinting that typically contains the bank’s name. Just under amplification, the micro printing is clear.
  6. Micro Lettering: A magnifying lens is employed to make a security feature that cannot be seen with the naked eye apparent. The majority of banks lack these characteristics.
  7. MICR code or Magnetic Ink Character Recognition Code. The bottom of every cheque has a code that helps identify the bank that issued it. It serves as a security bar to safeguard the transaction. The barcode’s digits display crucial data like the city code, PIN code, or bank branch code. The technology employed in the banking industry makes it easier to process and clear cheques and other paperwork. Since each cheque contains a distinct set of MICR numbers, this helps to identify the issuing authority and expedite the clearing process.

Fig 1: Labelled description of the security features of the cheque [5]

Materials and Methods used:

A detailed study has been carried out on different cheques that was collected and analysed for different security features. Examination was done under:

  1. Visual Inspection: In order to recognise the numerous characteristics or information that are present on the cheque, such as bank logos, the name of the bank, and other information, the cheque has been seen with the unaided eye in normal lighting. Dimensions of the cheque, including its length, width, and a standout quality called the bleeding effect (which causes ink to dissolve when touched by water)
  2. Examination through transmitted light: The cheques were examined with transmitted light. We looked at any watermarks that included the name or emblem of a bank. The majority of the bank cheques examined throughout the inspection had watermarks that could be seen on the back of the cheques.
  3. Examination under UV light: A UV chamber was needed to examine various bank cheques under a UV light source. To see the watermarks or bank logos that will glow when seen in such lightning settings, cheques were seen under long and short UV light. The bank’s name, a rupee column, security fibres, and other patterns were studied.
  4. Microscopic analysis: To inspect the cheques, a microscope was utilised. Under a microscope, the micro-lettering was clearly evident. A magnifying lens can be used to see these features as well. These tiny letters won’t show up on any photocopies or scanned copies of a cheque.

Observations and Result:

  1. Transmitted light examination: Different cheques from different banks were observed under transmitted light to check the presence of watermarks.

Fig 1: YES Bank cheque (left) and Indian Overseas Bank (Right) observed in oblique light, watermarks were seen of respective banks and of CTS INDIA.

2. Inspection with UV lighting: A UV chamber was used to observe the security feature of a cheque.

Fig 2: State Bank Of India (left) and Indian Overseas Bank (Right) logo observed when the cheque was placed under the UV light

3. Microscopic Examination: Cheques from different banks were observed under microscope to check the security features like micro-lettering and void pantograph.

Fig 3: Cheques of State Bank Of India(left) and Yes Bank (Right) were examined under microscope, micro-lettering of bank name was observed and void pantograph of Indian Overseas Bank was observed under microscope.

Importance of Security Feature Examination:

  1. Fraud Prevention: Security features discourage aspiring fraudsters from attempting to falsify or change cheques. The likelihood of financial fraud is decreased by the existence of these elements, which make it harder for counterfeiters to produce convincing imitation cheques.
  2. Protection for Account Holders: Security features give account holders some assurance that their cheques are less likely to be used fraudulently, increasing their trust in doing transaction with cheques.
  3. Maintaining Credibility of the Financial System: Security features protect the overall credibility and confidence of the financial system. This trust is essential for the banking sector and economy to run smoothly.
  4. Counterfeit Cheque Detection: To stop unauthorised withdrawals and to protect the interests of banks and account holders, forensic professionals can utilise security feature analysis to spot fake cheques throughout the clearing process.
  5. Preventing Tampering: Security features help reduce the risk of fraudulent operations by preventing unauthorised changes to cheque information, such as the payee or the amount.
  6. Confidence in Cross-Border Transactions: In cross-border transactions, where the validity of cheques issued by foreign institutions must be confirmed, security feature analysis is particularly crucial. This guarantees security and confidence in global financial transactions.
  7. Identity theft prevention: Security features like UV ink and microprinting can aid in establishing the authenticity of cheques and lower the danger of identity theft, where thieves attempt to pass off stolen cheques as their own.

Challenges Faced in Security Feature Authenticity:

  1. Advances in Counterfeit Technology: As technology develops, counterfeiters have access to high-end tools and programmes that can more accurately duplicate security features. The effectiveness of conventional security measures is put into question by this.
  2. High-Quality Printing and Scanning: Since contemporary printers and scanners can create high-quality copies, it can be challenging to tell a fake cheque from a real one. Those who are in charge of security feature analysis face a big issue because of this.
  3. Chemical Alteration : Some counterfeiters make changes to the information on cheques using chemical substances. This includes deleting or altering ink, which makes it challenging to find tampering using conventional techniques.
  4. Sophisticated Forgery Methods: With amazing accuracy, skilled forgers can replicate signatures, microprinting, and holograms. To remain ahead of counterfeiters, forensic analysts must constantly alter their techniques and equipment.
  5. Genuine Cheques that Have Been Modified or Stolen: Thieves or fraudsters may obtain genuine cheques and then change the payee or amount to make them appear genuine. Making the distinction between authentic but changed cheques and outright counterfeits becomes difficult as a result.
  6. Signature Forgery: Even with the most sophisticated forensic techniques, finding falsified signatures is still difficult. It might be difficult to tell a fake signature from a real one since skilled forgers can replicate handwriting styles and distinctive features.
  7. Emerging Technologies: In order to properly address these developments in forensic analysis, it is vital to update forensic analysis techniques when new security features and technologies are deployed. It might be difficult to keep up with the quick-changing technological background.

Conclusion:

From a comprehensive study of all security features examined through forensic examination procedures of different bank cheques it was observed that bank cheques are highly secured documents that contains many security features. The different security features makes the cheque reliable and authentic.

Experts can spot fake or changed cheques by carefully examining watermarks, signatures, holograms, MICR encoding, UV and IR features, chemical properties, and microprinting. This guarantees that cashier’s cheques, personal cheques, and bank drafts continue to be trusted tools for financial transactions, protecting parties involved in the transaction from fraud and forgery. The techniques employed in forensic analysis will evolve along with technology, making it harder for fraudsters to alter these important financial papers.

Given the difficulties and challenges it is crucial for financial institutions, companies, and forensic specialists to continuously adapt and invest in the most recent tools and techniques to guarantee the security of checks. Effective cheque fraud prevention also requires close cooperation with law enforcement and regulatory organizations.

References:

  • Garain, U. and Halder, B., 2008, December. On automatic authenticity verification of printed security documents. In 2008 Sixth Indian Conference on Computer Vision, Graphics & Image Processing (pp. 706-713). IEEE.
  • Thomas, A.A., Jeridi, E., Sharma, B.K., Mishra, V.P., Al Shamsi, M. and Al Khalloufi, M., 2018, August. Study of Security Features of Bank Cheques and Credit Cards and Decipherment. In 2018 7th International Conference on Reliability, Infocom Technologies and Optimization (Trends and Future Directions)(ICRITO) (pp. 207-212). IEEE.
  • Sehrawat, S.S., Kaur, G. and Singh, A., 2021. Public awareness: identification of security features of different bank cheques. J Forensic Crime Stu9, p.211.
  • Kumar, P., Bhandari, D., Sharma, P., Kaur, N., Khandekar, H., Chouhan, J.S. and Sahajpal, V., Comprehensive Analysis of Indian Bank Cheques for their Security Features and Forensic Authentication.

Written by: Karunya S

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