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How to recognize fake pay stubs

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Recognize fake pay stubs

There are all sorts of reasons why you might need to check if a pay stub is genuine. You might be an employer looking for proof of a prospective hire’s work history. You could be a lender looking for proof of income.

Whatever your reasons for investigating the legitimacy of pay stubs, there are a few things you can be on the lookout for in order to detect dodgy documents.

Amateurish design and layout

Lots of fake pay stubs can be singled out because they are designed and composed in a substandard way.

if someone has attempted to knock up their own pay stub using consumer-grade word processing software, everything from unusual font choice to poor text alignment can suggest that it is a homebrew concoction rather than the real deal.

Most modern businesses use a pay stub maker solution to standardize the look and feel of the documentation they issue to employees and give it that all-important professional sheen. If this is lacking, you are right to be suspicious.

Missing or inaccurate details

Another major red flag is if a pay stub is missing certain pieces of information that you would normally expect to see, or if the data provided is demonstrably inaccurate.

For example, a fake stub may not have gross and net pay defined separately, or it may be missing deductibles. It could even be apparent that the calculations for the amounts shown do not add up, so quickly checking the figures yourself is sensible.

In addition, plenty of phony stubs can come without the address of the recipient, or indeed that of the business which is alleged to have paid them.

A small amount of sleuthing, or simply a little attention to detail on your part, should help you sniff out these imperfections.

Implausible payment amounts

While an employee’s basic salary may be a nice, round figure, after tax and other deductions are taken into account, this usually ends up being a lower and less uniform amount.

You should be cautious of any pay stub that has a round final figure, as this may indicate foul play.

The accounts department of a business is unlikely to be compelled to opt for neatness, whereas a fraudster could try to make things easier for themselves by conjuring up round numbers to add to their misleading documentation.


A brief glance at a pay stub should let you see whether any obvious typos are present in the text. However, this is about more than looking for misspelled names and addresses; you also have to be aware of mistakes in the way the figures themselves are written.

A common snafu in this context is to use the capital letter ‘O’ instead of the number ‘0’. If an accounts department did this, it would mess with their payment and invoicing software. If a person attempting to pull the wool over your eyes did this, it could be a small but crucially tell-tale oversight.

Covering your back

Even with all of these tips for spotting fake pay stubs in mind, an especially skilled forger could still mislead you. This is why it is sensible to also request other proofs when you are attempting to check in about any income claims being made.

Bank statements and tax returns are good starting points, and if you want to go even further, you could contact their former employer directly and get documentation directly from the source.

Going the extra mile like this will save you a lot of hassle in the long run, especially if you have been given a reason to be suspicious.

Read Next: How to be a good employer

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