Lower your bank’s check fraud by participating in GBA’s Thumbprint Signature Program. The Thumbprint Signature touch pad is intended to deter counterfeit and stolen check fraud by obtaining a thumbprint signature from non-customers when cashing "on-us" and "not-on-us" checks.
The Thumbprint signature can be used by law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fraud claims made by account holders, and financial institution’s usage of the program is a natural deterrent. No database of fingerprints will be kept by the banking industry, and the signature will be shared with law enforcement officials only in cases of suspected fraud. A major bank in Georgia has reported an average 71% reduction in check fraud since it began this program.
The touch pad is intended to deter counterfeit and stolen check fraud by obtaining a thumbprint signature (fingerprint) from non-customers (customers who do not have a depository relationship with the institution) when cashing on-us and not-on-us checks. The thumbprint signature can be used by law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fraud claims made by account holders, and financial institution’s usage of the program is a natural deterrent. No database of fingerprints will be kept by the banking industry, and the signature will be shared with law enforcement officials only in cases of suspected fraud.
Thumbprint Signature has become popular with banks of all sizes because it offers an easy, inexpensive way to prevent fraud without inconveniencing customers. Many states have proven their programs effective through the usage of their member banks, credit unions and retail businesses. Other participants include a wide variety of businesses such as check cashing establishments, liquor stores, grocery and convenience stores and more.
There is much to gain by implementing this program in your institution:
- Losses resulting from the cashing of non-customer’s stolen, forged, counterfeited, altered and worthless checks would be reduced and minimized.
- The time spent by branch personnel to document and report such losses would be reduced and minimized.
- The time spent by branch personnel to appear in court regarding such losses would be greatly reduced, and in most cases eliminated.
- More productive time would be spent by branch personnel in providing service to the bank’s account holders.
- Better customer assistance would be provided. The thumbprint signature on the check would not only assist in identifying the fraud suspect, but could also be used to confirm non-involvement by the account holder, the true payee of a lost or stolen check and the person who has had their lost or stolen identification used fraudulently to cash a check.
Touch Pad Description
The touch pad is a two-inch inkless fingerprinting device that leaves virtually no residue on the finger. Users simply rub their fingers together and any remaining ink disappears. The touch pad is not the same thing as an ink pad and will not leave ink on the user’s finger or clothes.
How the Touch Pad Works
The presenter of the check presses the thumb of their right hand on the pad and places the impression of the finger on the face of the check between the memo and signature lines. If the presenter is disabled and cannot use their right thumb, an impression of the left thumb is placed on the check and noted “left hand” on the check next to the thumbprint. Should both thumbs be disabled, an impression of the right index finger is taken and “right index finger” is noted next to the print.
Care of Touch Pad
Touch pads should be closed when they are not being used to prevent the pads from drying out. The pads, when cared for properly, will produce 1,500 - 2,000 impressions before having to be replaced.
Reaction of Law Enforcement Authorities and Bank Regulators
Details of the Thumbprint Signature Program have been shared with the FBI, several Georgia law enforcement authorities and bank regulatory agencies, and the program has received widespread support from these and other groups.
Program Identification, Customer Awareness and Collateral Materials
A Thumbprint Signature logo has been developed and general customer information materials are available for use in making customers and non-customers aware of an institution’s participation in the program. It is recommended that participants use a Thumbprint Signature decal on all entrances to banking facilities. Security professionals believe this early visibility of the program will act as a significant deterrent.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Thumbprint Signature Program
Will the fingerprint actually be visible on the check?
Yes, the fingerprint will be immediately visible on the check so that a bank employee can tell if there is a good impression. The “inkless” feature refers to the fact that the touch pad will not leave a residue on your hand. In addition, the print is clearly visible on a photocopy or microfilm of the check.
Will the inkless fingerprint pad fit through the pneumatic tubes in the drive-through?
Yes, the pad is only about two inches in diameter and should easily travel through the pneumatic tubes in the drive-through.
Can a bank require a fingerprint on a government check?
Yes, a bank can require a fingerprint when cashing a government check for a non-customer, provided that the bank has not entered into an agreement with a regulator or other government entity under which it agrees to cash government checks for non-customers on the same terms as it cashes checks for its customers.
Must the bank obtain a fingerprint on every non-customer?
Each bank participating in the Thumbprint Signature program is advised to have written policies and procedures governing how the program will be used. Although a bank has some discretion in establishing its policy, it is critical that the policy is applied consistently to avoid allegations of discriminatory treatment. Generally, the simpler the policy, i.e., requiring fingerprints on all non-customers, the easier it will be to carry out.
Where are the thumbprints stored and is a database maintained?
The thumbprint check travels through the normal channels of the bank, just as any check would. The checks are not segregated and no database is maintained. The thumbprint checks are used by law enforcement agencies only in the case of check fraud.
Recommended Operating Policies
When to Obtain a Thumbprint Signature
A thumbprint signature should be obtained when:
- A non-customer presents an on-us or not-on-us check for cashing. )This includes employees of commercial or business account customers who present payroll checks drawn on the participating institutions. )
- .A non-customer presents an on-us check for exchange to a cashier’s check.
- A non-customer presents a government check for cashing.
NOTE: To apply with all applicable federal laws and regulations, a thumbprint signature should be obtained from every non-customer every time a check is presented for payment. Distinctions should not be made based on appearance or suspicious versus non-suspicious circumstances. Financial institutions in rural markets may want to develop a specific policy requiring a thumbprint signature only from non-residents of the community or county, but it is important to apply equal treatment to all non-customers once a policy is adopted.
Use of the Program in Drive-Through Facilities
It is recommended that non-customers seeking to cash checks be required to enter the premises to complete their transaction and affix their thumbprint signature to the face of the check. Some participants may elect to adopt policies providing for the use of Thumbprint Signature pads in drive-through facilities only after normal banking hours.
Notification to Business/Commercial Customers
It is recommended that all participating financial institutions write to their business/commercial customers at least two weeks prior to implementing the Thumbprint Signature Program. Letters and/or follow-up phone calls should encourage these customers to notify their employees that a thumbprint signature will be required if the employees are not depository customers of the institution. Notification of the program is a courtesy to business/commercial customers and will assist in the process of making the policy known to larger numbers of non-customers who may seek to cash checks. GBA has prepared a prototype letter for use in notifying customers.
Steps to Use in Obtaining a Thumbprint Signature
Tellers and other personnel should use the following procedures to obtain a presenter’s thumbprint signature:
Obtain required identification from the presenter.
- Explain the following to the presenter:“In order to protect the bank’s depositors, we require a thumbprint signature on the face of the check. The touch pad is not like an ink pad and will not stain hands or clothes. Our bank has joined with other Georgia financial institutions in implementing this program to eliminate check fraud.”
- If necessary, demonstrate use of the pad by obtaining your own fingerprint. Rub your index finger with your thumb to show how the material quickly disappears.
- If the presenter refuses to provide the thumbprint signature, return the check to the presenter and explain the bank will not cash the check.
- Request the thumbprint signature by stating the following: "Please press your right thumb on this pad and then press the finger onto the check – right here (pointing to the area of the check between the memo and signature lines).”
- Obtain the presenter’s thumbprint signature between the memo line and the signature line. If this is not possible, select a clear place on face of the check away from all writing and printed information.
- If the presenter ‘drags’ their finger, request the thumbprint signature again and instruct the presenter to place the signature in a clear spot on the check.
- Record the identification information on the check and return the identification to the presenter.
- Process the transaction utilizing normal operating procedures.
If the presenter leaves the branch abruptly and leaves the identification or the check, immediately contact a supervisor or your security personnel. Tellers should document the time and date of the transaction and the presenter’s description. Tellers and officers should follow established documentation and reporting procedures regarding known or suspected fraudulent transactions.