A One-Two Punch

A global payment services company takes bold action to knock-out would-be fraud

The first paper watermarks trace back to Italy in 1282. However, it wasn’t until the early modern years of papermaking in the mid-1800s that watermarks grew in importance, both as a symbol of quality and authenticity.

With increasing advances in computers and printing technology—and, sadly, the sophistication of would-be thieves—maintaining the security and validity of negotiable documents like birth certificates, vehicle titles, college transcripts, and bank checks remains an ongoing challenge.

Here’s the story of how a printer of secure documents layered a time-honored paper technique with sophisticated new printing technologies to help a global payment services company stop fraudsters in their tracks.

The Background

Thousands of Americans rely on alternative financial services, including money orders, to pay bills and complete other necessary financial transactions.

Research shows close to one third of Americans are underbanked, or personally lacking the full range of financial services. In fact, one in nine households does not have a checking account. Money orders, like many other tools of financial transactions, are susceptible to fraud and counterfeit.

Glatfelter recently partnered with a key printing industry customer to increase security on money orders for a global payment services company.

The Problem

With their product being sold by agents all across the country and around the world, fraud was an ever-present and increasing risk for the multi-billion dollar financial transactions company.

According to Glatfelter’s customer contact, earlier versions of money orders were printed on 24# bond with simple security features, including an artificial, or printed on, watermark.

Criminals were using dipping techniques to submerge documents in chemicals, allowing them to alter the ink on a money order—whether it was the dollar amount or the pay-to-the-order-of name. Plus, increasingly sophisticated desktop publishing software and printers allowed determined counterfeiters to create nearly identical documents for illegal purposes.

The Solution

Glatfelter’s printing industry customer recommended a multi-layered approach that combined a series of overt and covert security features. At its foundation? A secure paper.

They selected Defensa True from Glatfelter’s line of Defensa® security papers, which contains a true paper machine watermark from which it gets its name. Because the mark is created during the papermaking process, versus an artificial watermark that is applied in the printing process, it is nearly impossible to duplicate.

“A true paper machine watermark is a very effective security feature because of its simplicity,” explains Lance Mikus, product manager for carbonless and forms at Glatfelter. “You don’t need computers, you don’t need software, you don’t need programmers. What you need is a sheet of paper, and anything you put on that sheet of paper is secure—about as secure as you can get with a written document. That’s because of the high degree of complexity to duplicate it.”

Adding to the level of sophistication are embedded fibers that offer additional fraud prevention features such as reactivity to solvents that are often used in counterfeiting and fibers that glow under ultraviolet light.

Then comes even more security. The printer applies overt and covert security features onto the document. On every money order is a symbol printed in thermochromic ink. When it comes in contact with the heat of a person’s body, the ink disappears and comes back. This feature, combined with additional covert printing measures, creates a highly sophisticated and secure document.

The Results

The beefed up security features are immediately noticeable.

The end client took the approach of calling out the features and did an internal campaign to educate and train their agents.

Printed directly on the money orders are instructions on how to verify a document’s authenticity using the watermark and thermochromic ink security features. Agents, as well as customers, know absence of these features indicates tampering.

The new, multi-layered security measures led to significant reductions in fraud at the company and an increased level of trust and dependability throughout the supply chain.