Hawaii’s BBB Warning to Business Owners: Watch Out for Counterfeit Travelers Checks

March 16, 2017

Beach on Hawaii

Honolulu, HI – March 16, 2017: Hawaii’s Better Business Bureau warns business to be on the lookout for counterfeit travelers checks being used locally. Several business owners have reported receiving counterfeit traveler’s checks as payment, many not realizing the situation until attempting to deposit the checks at their bank.

Business owners can protect themselves from this by learning how to identify counterfeit traveler’s checks and teaching all employees who handle payments to do the same. To identify if a traveler’s check is real, business owners should:

  1. Check for a watermark: Hold the check to a light source or bright window to check for a watermark image on the face of the check. Be sure that the watermark is not visible when moved away from the light. A missing watermark or watermark that is printed on the back of the check and visible away from a light source could be a sign of a counterfeit check.
  2. Check for a holographic thread: Besides a watermark, there should also be a holographic thread running through the width of the check visible when held up to a light source. A real check will always reveal a silver or metallic thread with a shine to it. Counterfeit checks may contain threads, but they may appear dull or possibly printed on the check and easily seen even when not held to light.
  3. Feel the check: Business owners should feel the surface of the check feeling for engraved, or upraised, printing which would create texture. A real check should not be perfectly smooth. Real checks will normally feel similar to paper currency, without feeling overly smooth.
  4. Check serial number: If a person is paying for purchase with multiple checks of a similar amount, businesses should be sure to compare the serial numbers of the checks. Travelers’ checks which are sold in packs will feature a number sequence. This means, for example, checks ending in -002 can be expected to be paired with another check close in range, such as -001 or -003. Random serial numbers on checks of a similar denomination can be a sign of counterfeit checks. 


Business owners should also keep the following in mind when a customer pays with a traveler’s check.

  • Make sure the customer signs the check in front of you and that the signature matches the signature on their ID. Also be sure that they only sign the bottom, left signature line. The top right signature area would have been previously signed at the time of purchase from the issuing bank on real traveler’s checks. 
  • Do not accept checks which are much larger than the amount needed for payment. Do not accept a $100 check for a $5 purchase.
  • Check the surface of the check behind the signatures for signs of smudged or missing microprinting or brown discolorations. These marks are created when someone attempts to remove existing signatures from an authentic travelers check for the purpose of passing it off as new. 

If a business receives a questionable check, they can verify the validity of the check by contacting the issuing company directly.

Any business which has encountered or has any information regarding counterfeit checks they should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 808-566-4300 or Hawaii’s BBB at 808-536-6956. Counterfeit money can be reported to the United States Secret Service Hawaii Field Office at 808-541-1912.


ABOUT BBB: For more than 70 years, Hawaii’s Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.