How To Verify Pay Stubs: What You Should Know About Fakes

Have you ever had a rental applicant provide falsified information when filling out their rental application? Did you notice it during screening or were the lies discovered later on?

Many landlords have had this experience, and some have even been tricked by fake pay stubs. Pay stubs are one of the most commonly faked documents for rental applicants. Landlords may not be familiar with how pay stubs should look or how to verify them.

However, you must learn how to do so. Ensuring that you’re not looking at falsified information is the only way to make an informed decision when choosing a tenant. You want to be sure you are getting an accurate representation of the individual so you know if they’re a good fit for your rental.

How can you ensure that you are not looking at fake pay stubs? Today, take some time to learn about spotting these phony documents and what else you can do to improve your tenant screening process.

A Table Of Contents On Fake Pay Stubs:

Fake pay stubs are shockingly easy to buy online, but does that mean they’re going to pass through your tenant screening filters? Learning how to spot these lookalike check stubs is the best way to improve your processes. It’s time to take fake documents into account.

What Are Fake Pay Stubs?

What exactly are fake pay stubs, and why should landlords be worried about them?

A fake pay stub is a falsified document that shows made-up income. Some individuals will try to use this type of falsified document as proof of income when applying for a loan, a credit card, or, in our case, a rental unit.

Fake pay stubs available online can seem very real, and this can make it hard to identify the differences between fake and actual pay stubs.

Why Applicants Fake Pay Stubs

Why Applicants Fake Pay Stubs

Like other landlords, you probably require income verification when collecting a rental application. This verification paints part of the picture to show whether or not the tenant is financially stable enough to rent out your property. Applicants who aren’t employed or don’t make enough money may feel they need to falsify their income documents.

Even in cases where a tenant wants to add someone to the lease, landlords may wish to review the new tenant’s pay stubs to ensure they can share equal responsibility for the unit. If the new tenant cannot meet the rental standards, the landlord may reject the addition. In cases like this, applicants may choose to fake their pay stubs.

There isn’t just one reason why applicants choose to create false documents. Regardless of the reason, though, landlords can benefit from learning more about spotting fake pay stubs to avoid being tricked.

How To Spot Fake Pay Stubs: Common Red Flags

Check stubs, pay stubs, and similar documents can be falsified online through paid tools, free programs, and advanced editing technologies. Even cell phones can be used to alter documents in some cases, and that means nearly anyone can try to make a fake document.

What should landlords be looking out for? These are some of the most common indicators found on fake pay stubs. Pay close attention to documents to ensure that you are not looking at a knockoff.

Here’s more about how to spot fake pay stubs and collect them for tenant screening:

#1: Swapped Numbers And Letters

Many fake pay stubs will have a letter “O” in place of the number “0.” While the difference between these two characters is incredibly subtle, especially in some typefaces, they are different. Professional accounting services will not make this mistake, so you should be wary if you come across this on a pay stub.

#2: Inconsistent Information

All personal details on pay stubs should be consistent unless there is a valid explanation. For example, the tenant’s name should be listed as their legal name, and it should be spelled correctly. Numbers such as gross income should line up properly with net pay, and there should not be any incorrect math. The address of the business and individual should also be accurate.

If you notice any incorrect or inconsistent information, it’s best to request a secondary form of income verification to protect your business. Save yourself time by trying out RentPrep’s income verification product here.

#3: Numbers That Don’t Make Sense

Most people’s paychecks leave them with numbers that aren’t round. For example, you’re unlikely to see a pay stub for $3,000 even. Instead, it’s more likely to see a number like $2,762.30 after taxes and other deductions are removed. If the numbers that appear on the pay stub are all perfect, round numbers, something probably isn’t right.

#4: Messy Documents

While some businesses have simple pay stubs or outdated formats, most pay stubs are generated through accounting firms or software that create a standardized appearance. Legitimate pay stubs typically do not include any of the following issues:

  • Unmatching or weird typefaces
  • Blurry printing
  • Misaligned data
  • Gaps
  • Half-printed information
  • Wrong type of paper
  • Smeared text

All of these unprofessional printing and design issues are unlikely to show up on real pay stubs;  you could be looking at a fake.

#5: Review The Image Data

If a potential tenant sends you a digital copy of their pay stub, you can look at some of the information on the data to learn more about where it is from, when it was created, and more.

This metadata is often known as EXIF data. Some programs, such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, make it possible to see this information. Many online tools keep track of EXIF data and can let you know of possible manipulations.

It’s unlikely that a fake pay stub will be caught this way, but this is a good thing to check if something seems off but you can’t put your finger on it. Even if nothing appears in the EXIF data, you’ll be provided additional peace of mind by checking.

How To Spot A Fake ADP Pay Stub

ADP is a very large payroll provider, and many of the pay stubs you review will come through their services. Thankfully, ADP makes it relatively easy to verify whether or not you’re looking at a legitimate document.

ADP checks have a routing number on the bottom, and this should be the first nine digits. Sometimes, these numbers are fraudulent. This means you’re looking at a fake check. If the routing number cannot be searched for accuracy, it might not be real. The best way to check this is through the Federal Reserve Department of Financial Services.

In many cases, however, you won’t be looking at the ADP check but at the statement that had been attached to the check.

The top edge of ADP checks is perforated where it separates the statement from the check. If the bottom of the statement isn’t perforated, you’re likely looking at a fake stub.

If you have received an ADP check and believe it is fraudulent, contact ADP directly to get assistance. They can help you verify whether or not the check is real, and then you can move forward with processing it.

How To Verify Pay Stubs And Income

Tenant screening often includes income verification. However, if you are worried about fake pay stubs, how do you confirm that an applicant can afford to rent your property?

The best way to do this is to request at least two forms of income and employment verification. Having more than one document can help look for any discrepancies and ensure that applicants are honest about their income.

Most landlords use the following documents to verify proof of income:

  • W-2 tax form (for employees)
  • Employment verification letter
  • 1099 tax form (for contractors)
  • Bank statements
  • Social Security statements
  • IRS Form 1040

How To Verify Pay Stubs And Income

Regardless of what type of document you receive, ensure that you verify the place of employment listed. This basic check can ensure that the business is real and the applicant works there.

Additionally, remember that every state has different rules about what types of documentation you may request. However, in most states, you may request the documents listed above as long as the tenant has agreed to the screening and other checks into their background.

If you have to choose just one or two documents to highlight, the best options are tax statements and bank statements because these documents are much more difficult to fake in a realistic, believable way. Additionally, they can be compared to bank stubs to ensure the information provided is truthful.

Beyond Income Verification: Complete Tenant Screening

Whether you’re looking to find out bankruptcy information on potential tenants or simply want to do a complete background check, it’s important that your tenant screening lines up with your needs. Tenant screening is complex and overwhelming for many landlords, and it takes too much time.

Better and more efficient screening is possible by working with a tenant screening service. Here at RentPrep, we offer third-party tenant screening in many different forms. Choose the service that fits your needs to ensure that you can make the right choice when renting out your properties.

FAQs: Fake Check Stubs And More

Can applicants get in trouble for fake pay stubs?

Generally, there isn’t much you can do if you discover that an applicant has forged their proof of income, other than rightfully denying their application. While it is illegal for individuals to provide fake pay stubs as proof of income, proving or pursuing the individual for this type of fraud is unlikely to benefit you.

If you rent to someone and belatedly discover that their documents were falsified, it would be within your rights to evict them and pursue them for associated damages in small claims court. This could lead to legal trouble for the person who faked the pay stubs.

Do apartments check if pay stubs are real?

Most apartment property managers or landlords will check if the income verification documents are authentic. While landlords who only manage one or two properties may not see this as a big concern, those running dozens of properties are aware of the importance of tenant screening. Ideally, all landlords will do thorough income screening to ensure everything is a good fit.

What do fake pay stubs look like?

Fake pay stubs can look remarkably like real ones, or they might look very unprofessional. Some fake pay stubs will appear to have been made through quick editing and a word processing program, while others will be hard to notice.

Ultimately, there isn’t a precise answer about what fake pay stubs look like, and that’s why it is essential to use the tips in today’s guide to review all documents.

How does proof of income work?

New landlords are often confused by how income verification works. What exactly should you be reviewing in an applicant’s documents to understand whether or not they have the ability to pay rent?

First, you must get permission from the applicant to review their private information and run any credit or background checks. This should be part of the application process. It ensures applicants are aware that you will be doing these checks.

Once you have permission, you will ask the tenant to provide a proof of income letter, tax forms, bank statements, employment verification letters, or any other documents that help give a clear picture of their financial situation. You need to collect basic information to determine whether or not the potential tenant can afford rent.

The proof of income can come from an employer, bank, lender, government agency, or other organization as long as you are sure it is true. Review any received documents for discrepancies before moving forward. Legal documents are the most reliable, so it is best to request tax forms when possible.

If income verification is confusing, remember that you can also sign on for third-party assistance from our team. RentPrep offers an income verification service that removes the stress of this process for landlords.

How To Know If A Pay Stub Is Fake: Applying These Tactics

Now that you know more about how applicants can fake pay stubs, you can make a more informed decision about whether or not to accept pay stubs as proof of income.

If you do decide that using pay stubs as an income verification method works for your business, don’t forget to double-check for these red flags:

  1. Font consistency –Check for typeface, blurry lines, alignment issues
  2. Professionalism – Does it match real documents?
  3. Details – Review personal information for inaccuracies

By doing these simple checks for red flags, you’ll likely be able to spot any fake pay stubs. Still, it’s best to always use pay stubs in conjunction with another type of employment or income verification to ensure that you are not being duped.

Pay stubs, unlike other verification methods, are very hard to verify. Keep that in mind as you extend future business plans.