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Discussion Boards > Remote Deposit Capture Discussions > MICR Ink Detection by Scanners View modes: 
User avatar
JMorrison - 8/4/2011 3:17:56 PM
MICR Ink Detection by Scanners
I'm curious to learn what the industry-standard, best practice is for check scanners ability to detect the absence or presence of MICR ink on the scanned check.  This could be easy enough to apply to merchant capture, but seems problematic for flatbed scanners or mobile phones.
Without MICR ink detection, how does a bank protect itself from clients depositing faxed, photocopied or pictures of checks?

User avatar
igoodall - 8/5/2011 8:55:05 AM
RE:MICR Ink Detection by Scanners
Given the easy access to MICR toner print cartridges, I have always viewed this as somewhat of a red herring, at least in terms of copies and intentional fraud.

I think you will find that most check capture products that have MICR readers will also use OCR read to improve the quality of the MICR codeline read, and will use the OCR read if there is a poor or no MICR read. Some may require a minimum level of "MICR", but I am not aware of any best-practise in this regard.
In addition there are "OCR-only" products on the market as well.

The real protection to the question posed is surely "duplicate detection" performed by the Paying Bank prior to posting, and performed over some number of weeks/months.

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John - 8/5/2011 11:22:44 AM
RE:MICR Ink Detection by Scanners
I think it helps to look at the “traditional” process of depositing and clearing paper checks, compare that to the process of RDC and Image-based clearing, then take a closer look at RDC to see how we can “optimize” the system.

Fake checks were a problem even before RDC came about. Authentic checks with poor or no MICR were (and still are) prevalent. Very few banks actually refused to accept checks that looked suspicious. So… in the “traditional” way of check clearing (Pre-RDC), the vast majority of items were accepted and forwarded for clearing. If the item was fraudulent, it would eventually be returned. If it was a legitimate check but had no MICR, it would be “corrected” and actually clear. This timeframe typically took anywhere from 1 to several days (rarely, in some cases, weeks or months). To the point made by the previous poster, I agree that MICR detection can be a bit of a “Red Herring”.

However… If your bank has the policies and procedures in place to deal with suspicious checks or checks with no MICR, then you may be on to something with the importance of MICR in Risk Management. Unfortunately, I know of no banks who actually decline to accept a check without MICR. Some banks may actually reject it from being captured via RDC, but the customer is then asked to simply mail the check in, or bring it into a branch to be deposited. –And don’t forget… the client could simply just go to a deposit-enabled ATM to deposit the items as well. Either way, the bank still accepts the item and attempts to clear it. But this time, instead of clearing / starting via RDC, there is more work to do by the FI in order to get the item cleared.

RDC has actually made dealing with these issues less “risky” in many ways…
  1. By simply using RDC, the item gets into the clearing stream faster. The faster the item gets into the clearing stream, the faster you’ll become aware of returned items.
  2. The OCR capabilities in RDC systems continue to improve. Accurate data compared against R/T and Account # databases upfront can help to identify fraudulent items (or potentially fraudulent) and the bank can then place a hold on funds availability for that item.
  3. RDC Systems are increasingly able to not just detect, but also “read” endorsements and payee lines on checks. In the near future, systems will be able to verify that the item being deposited is actually made payable to the depositor (or not), as well as verifying an appropriate restrictive endorsement. Already, there are solutions which can verify the rear endorsement, and take appropriate action in the event of no endorsement.
  4. Unlike the “traditional” deposit process, most banks are now placing limits, thresholds, and monitoring deposits made via RDC in a manner most never employed in the traditional process. This, in and of itself, makes RDC a safer way to accept check deposits.
Last but not least, the FFIEC guidance on RDC Risk Management has helped make the industry aware that they should only be making funds available after the checks have cleared (at the earliest) or else they need to underwrite the exposure of providing availability before items are cleared. Many banks are also requiring minimum balances and taking other steps to deal with the “what if” situations.

So, what if a fraudulent item with no MICR comes in via RDC? If funds availability is delayed for two days (provisional credit is posted, but funds are not available for withdrawl), there is a good chance that item will be returned before the customer has a chance to withdraw the funds. If the “MICR” line is compared to a database and found to likely be suspicious, holds can be placed on the item. If the item goes above the deposit limit, holds can be placed, etc.

Long story short, actual magnetic MICR rarely plays a real role in the traditional deposit process, and can only play a role in protecting a bank if that bank can ensure they do not accept the item in any other channel (branch, mail, ATM, etc.), or the bank can ensure they can place a hold on the account / item, delay availability, or ensure they are not at risk by some other means.

Thoughts? Questions?

User avatar
dwelch0925 - 6/7/2012 12:18:54 AM
RE:MICR Ink Detection by Scanners
Great article John, but I would suggest that if a bank has policies about MICR at a teller or in RDC, they more than likely will have similar screening at ATMs, so if you try to pass it in a check lacking MICR at image-enabled ATM, it will likely spit right back out.  

When you say MICR, I presume you are being specific to the definition of Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) printed with an E13-B font in magnetic ink or toner.  I agree that printing a MICR Code line in the right font without the magnetic ink/toner would probable get by most tellers, but would reckon that a total absence of a codeline might be refused (or subject to a long hold.    I also submit that items that are not eligible for image clearing would have to be cleared as paper, which still presents the problem of magnetic ink required (minimally) in the routing transit field by UCC and OC3. 

I would also think that while OCR is a great assist to MICR in platforms with dual capabilities, that MICR reading is often preferred (the OCR functions may even be disabled) to get faster, possibly more accurate, through-put.

Surely everyone must understand that repairing items is expensive, so bankers aren't looking to take in items that are in obvious need of repair. 

That is my two cents!  I don't think this is all a red herring either.

User avatar
dwelch0925 - 6/7/2012 12:26:48 AM
RE:MICR Ink Detection by Scanners
Deposit agreements.  Since transit items are passed with warranties to the paying bank, the wise banker can either take the chance (repair codeline date, if OCR fails), send electronically, and hope for the best.  If the item is no good, the paying bank will return it to the depositary bank and you'll either charge it back or eat it.  If you have that agreement, you charge it back.  Hopefully the depositor has funds.

If you meant screening, rather than "protect" my answer would be "difficult to guarantee" and thus, back to the strong deposit agreement.

User avatar
bncook - 11/15/2012 10:06:31 AM
RE:MICR Ink Detection by Scanners
Is anyone monitoring the MICR line of the items that are scanned for unwarranted re-keying of the MICR line? If you allow customers to re-key the MICR line in the software, do you monitor the before and after state? Or do you send it to a database that can alert you if something is not correct in the MICR line of that check that was scanned?

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