How Can I Recognize a Fake Receipt?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

There are a few clues to look for on a receipt that can provide information about whether it is fake. A skilled forger can produce highly reliable receipts that may require considerable investigation to verify. It is important to consider the source of the receipt when evaluating it; a receipt printed out from email, for example, should look different from a document generated at a store, whether it uses a thermal printer or laser jet.

Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

One indicator that a receipt is false can be obviously incorrect information. A fake receipt might list the business name and contact information incorrectly, or might not code products like the company does. This information can be verified by looking up the company; if the receipt says the store is at 123 Fake Receipt Way and the company doesn't list a store at this address, this can be a tip off. Incorrect product codes are another warning sign. Each product should have its own unique identifying number, and if it doesn't match the company's listings, often found on its website, the receipt may be fake.

Texture and appearance can also be warning signs. Some stores use watermarked paper, and a fake receipt will be easy to spot because it doesn't have the watermark, or the pattern looks wrong. It is usually necessary to have a valid receipt for comparison. If receipts are too crisp, this can be another sign of a fake receipt. Most receipts get a little battered, even with careful handling, and a smooth, even surface with no wrinkles or smudges may be fake.

Limited detail is another issue. Some receipts are simply register tape, with a time stamp and a listing of a number of items purchased at various prices. These are easy to fake with something like an adding machine, although a fraudulent receipt may list prices that do not exist, or calculate sales tax incorrectly, and this can be a tip off. Other receipts should offer more detail; a restaurant receipt, for example, will name the dish, while a clothing store usually lists SKU numbers on its receipts. The receipt may also include a return policy and contact information. If this information is absent, the document may be false.

If a receipt appears questionable, it is possible to take it to the original issuer for verification. Personnel can determine if the receipt is valid, or if it's been altered in some way from the original. If the source of the receipt is not nearby, one option is to call, mention the questionable receipt, and ask for some information to determine if it is valid. This investigation time may not be worth it if the fake receipt is for a low amount, and fraudsters may count on this when they submit fabricated receipts for expense reports or false product returns.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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