A small business's carefree habit of cutting checks on plain paper can make easy work for forgers, warns David Fehrman, production manager of secure documents for forms maker Standard Register. Recently, a Chicago hair salon was shorn of $14,000 before it realized someone was scanning the restrictive message ("Not valid for more than $500") on its checks through a PC, obliterating the message and casually upping the amount. And advances in electronics mean more and more potentially risky instruments for businesses to worry about -- among them, cash-register receipts, gift certificates, and redeemable coupons.

Standard Register has created security features for gift certificates that can be verified at a glance. In one of them, an uncopyable watermark is embedded in the form; the clerk briefly holds the paper at an angle to determine whether the mark is there or not. But now forgery has spread to back offices. Notes Fehrman: "One of the biggest items today is the college transcript that's needed when a person applies for a job. The applicant color-copies a transcript with grades of, say, 2.3, scrapes off the toner, and puts the document back through a printer, this time printing on it the 3.8 average he wishes he had earned." Unfortunately, Standard Register has yet to devise a counterstrategy.

For a demo package of security checks and other safe business forms, call Standard Register at 513-443-1000.

-- Robert A. Mamis