Definition and Example of Microprinting on a Check
Microprinting (MP) is the printing of extremely fine details on a document. It's a security feature that makes it difficult to make fake documents, such as:
- Currency (bills)
- Identification documents (ID cards, birth certificates, and more)
When used as an anti-fraud tool, letters are often printed so small that they cannot be read by the human eye, resulting in tiny words "hidden" on the face of checks and currency.
Microprinting helps you verify when a document is legitimate. If an area on a check has microprinting, you may be able to see that it's there. However, to read what it says, you’ll most likely need a magnifying glass or a macro lens on a camera.
How Does Microprinting on a Check Work?
When you see MP on your checks, usually near the signature line, it means that the printer used microprint as one of the check's security features.
On checks, the signature lines on both the front and back are typically printed with microprint. They look like straight lines but are actually very tiny words printed close together.
Common words used in microprinting on checks include “AUTHORIZED SIGNATURE,” “MICROPRINT SECURITY,” and “ORIGINAL DOCUMENT.” If a check has been printed by a U.S. federal agency, it may have the name of the agency, "USA," or "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" as part of the microprinting.
In addition to microprint on the signature line, you may find small words printed elsewhere on the check. The borders of checks, which also look like lines, often contain tiny letters.
With a high-quality printer, it is possible to make fake checks or other financial documents that look legitimate, but security features like microprint make the job harder. When microprint was first used, very few copiers or scanners could copy the small letters with sufficient resolution, so those tools would produce an easy-to-detect fake.
Even with a powerful scanner, you’d need a very fancy printer to print tiny letters clearly. Security features like microprint on checks make it harder to create genuine-looking fakes.
To determine whether a check is legitimate, you can check the security features it uses. Most checks list their security features in a box on the back.
Government agencies often list the security features of currency and other documents so that you can check that they are legitimate.
Alternatives to Microprinting On a Check
Checks can use a variety of other security features, including:
- Specially-printed padlock icon: Many checks have a small padlock printed on them. This mark is the certification of the Check Payment Systems Association. It indicates that the check includes enhanced security features.
- Unique fonts: Many checks use security fonts, which include unique patterns that are difficult to reproduce.
- Warning or security bands: Most checks have a printed border that includes the word "WARNING" and lists all of the included security features for that check.
- Watermarks: Checks and other secure documents include identifying images or patterns as part of their printing. These images are printed in light and dark shades that are difficult to see, copy, and reproduce.
Most checks will include several or all of these features, along with microprinting, to make them as secure as possible.
Do I Need Microprinting on a Check?
You aren’t required to buy checks with microprint. You can even print your own checks using a home printer. However, you may find that your checks are rejected, or you may be charged additional fees for using “alternative” methods.
It is safer to have more security features on any financial documents that you use. If you purchase blank checks (that contain other security features as well), you can still use your printer to print the payee information and amount.
Check stock that is purchased from reputable check printers will almost certainly feature microprint.