How to Spot Fake Pay Stubs and Employment Verification

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These days, it is easier than ever for potential tenants to fake important information on their rental applications. If you haven’t heard of the fake pay stub scam, here is a quick overview of what it involves:

Currently, there are dozens of online companies that make creating fake pay stubs a breeze. You simply head to a website where you can enter all the information you want. You can put your actual company’s name on the pay stub, and whatever amount of money you want to pretend you make.

Creating a fake pay stub takes about one minute and around five dollars. These pay stubs look legitimate and are nearly indistinguishable from a real pay stub. In this way, if someone is interested in your property and they do not meet your income requirements, they can quickly print off a few pay stubs to submit with a higher wage amount. These types of scams put the landlord at risk, because if the potential tenant is actually less financially-stable than they claim, they may be unable to pay rent in the future.

fake pay stub scam basics

How to Spot a Fake Pay Stub Like a Pro

To make sure you can avoid this situation at all costs, below are our expert tips on how to spot fake pay stubs and employment verification.

1. Is Everything Perfectly Rounded?

illustration of net pay on pay stub

When is the last time your paycheck came out to a perfectly rounded number, with no extra dollars or cents? Chances are, probably never. One of the first things to check for when reviewing an applicant’s pay stub is to make sure that their monthly earnings are not perfectly rounded to the nearest hundred or thousand. This is a sure sign that the person filled out a fake form (and lazily at that!) because paychecks are almost never a rounded number.

2. Does it Look Professional?

The people in charge of putting together pay stubs are usually professional accountants and HR staff. These people are not likely to make messy, confusing documents that are difficult to decipher. When reviewing your applicant’s pay stub, ensure that it looks professionally-made by checking for small details. Everything should be clear and legible, not blurry, and all digits and characters should be properly lined up.

3. Is There a Difference Between Zeros and O’s?

A very small, but revealing detail in pay stubs is whether or not there is a difference between the capital letter “O” and the number “0”. As you can see, zeros should be slightly taller and oval-shaped, while capital O’s are typically much more rounded. Again, a professional accountant would never make this type of mistake so it is a good sign that the document is fake if you can’t tell the difference between the two.

4. Is the Basic Information Consistent?

One of the easiest mistakes an applicant can make when submitting a fake pay stub is to miss some of the personal detail sections. Pay stubs and other official documents usually have the person’s name, address, social security number, and other personal information listed in multiple places, so it’s a warning sign if you find inconsistencies in these areas.

How to Spot a Fake W2 in Three Easy Steps

In addition to pay stubs, applicants will also sometimes submit other false documents if they don’t meet certain rental application requirements. Here are our tips for how to spot a fake W2.

1. Dot Your i's and Cross Your t’s

Basically, run through the list above and check for the same issues. Does their W2 state they made an even $1,000,000 last year? Is it blurry with characters all over the place? Is their address listed as one thing on the pay stub but something else on their W2? All of these inconsistencies are things to watch out for.

2. Do Your Due Diligence

checklist of fake w2 checks

Another easy way to verify if the W2 your applicant submitted is legit is to make sure it comes from a real company. Do some quick research on the company and trust your gut. If your search does indeed pull up a real company, do they seem genuine? Are they based in the U.S., or do you need to confirm that your applicant is a remote worker? Does their website seem credible, and display actual information about what the company does? If you can tick all these boxes than the company checks out.

3. Verify Applicant’s Employment Status

The last thing you can do to verify a W2 is to call up the company they’ve listed. They should be able to confirm that the applicant works for them, along with their date of hire. When you ask for references during the application process, make sure to ask for a current employer reference. If an applicant knows you have the ability to call their employer, they will be less likely to try committing pay stub or W2 fraud.

Make sure you actually contact the references they provide. This can help you build a better character profile on the individual. Asking for an office number that you can verify through a quick Google search, rather than a cell phone number, is a good way to ensure you are not simply speaking to a scammer’s partner-in-crime.

Make sure you keep these tips for spotting fake pay stubs and employment verification handy, so that you are protecting yourself from scammers. In addition to running through these lists during the rental application period, you should also be taking advantage of tenant screening services to make sure your tenant meets your rental criteria. 

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