Can I write a Check on Anything I like?

My ignorance has been fought! :slight_smile:

I’ve seen people put (my) cheques through a device with a U-shaped slot, which presumably moves the MICR numbers past some sort of read head. I always thought that was magnetic… it’s an optical scanner then?

These days they are mostly optical, though I believe the major check printers still use the magnetic ink for all the little banks that may still have magnetic scanners.

But you can print your checks with plain ink – they’ll work fine in the optical scanners and if it runs into a magnetic one, they’ll just process it by hand.

“No, m’lud, it was a blank cow.”

So I was just thinking about this. If the company sent out a ‘fake’ check (to 1000’s of people I’m sure), why would they use their real routing and account number? That seems like a royally bad idea.

How are Cecil and Snopes in conflict?

It was, and still is a colossally bad idea. I’d wager that someone in the art department was tasked with coming up with the “fake check” design, and simply used a real check as the basis and didn’t bother changing any of the MICR, on the erroneous assumption that people would read “Non-negotiable for cash” and not attempt to take it to the bank, and that the wording “Non-negotiable for cash” did not legally turn the thing into a valueless postcard.

A few years before Mr. Combs did this, I was tasked with creating a large “presentation check” for use at a charity event. People freaked out at the sight of a four foot wide check with our group’s name on it. Some of them worried that the charity was going to get our real check and the presentation check and be able to double their donation by taking both to the bank, as if any bank would willingly take a four foot wide “check” with no account number and no paying bank information mounted on foamcore. :rolleyes:

I’m working on an optical project involving checks (for a large bank) and run into this. Pretty much all check processing still relies on magnetic ink as so the POS scanners. When a non-magnetic check comes through (primarily through home printing services like in Quicken) it will get bounced to a manual process where someone will retype the MICR line and print it in magnetic ink and then apply it to your check so it can go through automated process again.

Banks have allowances with each other on how many checks can fail before they start charging each other for the overage. So if one bank were to start using non-magnetic inks they’d quickly piss off all the other banks (since most checks are received by an institution other than the one the check draws on).

The project I was working on would have involved the generation of a large number of non-magnetic checks so ran into these issues. The big concern was that merchants like Wal-Mart wouldn’t accept them since the non-magnetic checks would fail out of their on-site MICR scanners.

Don’t be so sure! I was going to post the story of the “fake” $100,000 check but I see that Shagnasty beat me to it (see post 15 of this thread.)

Unless I’m seriously misreading the SD column I linked to above, Cecil reports without contradiction* the story of the cow check

However, Snopes (also linked above, but not by me) not only sez “false,” but claims no such person ever existed.

It’s been late at night every time I’ve looked at these, so I’m not ruling out that I’m missing something between the two.

  • Note that I specifically do not say he “reports as fact.” But I’ve never seen Cecil shy away from calling bullsh!t.

Cecil reports as you describe in his original response but goes on to acknowledge his error in reply to another letter at the foot of your link.


Damn scroll bar, always hiding the good stuff from me.