Fake Pay Stubs—Tips on How to Spot Them

It’s an unfortunate truth in the rental industry: although most people are honest, there are unscrupulous renters out there who try to deceive landlords and property managers with fake pay stubs. These deceptive practices can lead to numerous issues for property owners, from rental payment defaults and property damage to legal complications. 

For this reason, it’s essential to stay vigilant and knowledgeable about the telltale signs of a fake pay stub. By familiarizing yourself with some of the most common red flags, you can take proactive measures to protect your investments and ensure you’re choosing tenants who are responsible and trustworthy. 

Please note that this is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal or financial advice. Laws may vary depending on your location. 

Why Would Renters Give You Fake Pay Stubs?

In today’s digital world, technology has made it easy for unscrupulous renters to fake essential information on their rental applications, including pay stubs. To make matters worse, there are numerous companies online that offer services that allow individuals to easily and affordably create convincing fraudulent pay stubs. The pay stubs look genuine at first glance and are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing—but the good news is, there are usually some red flags that can tip you off. 

The main motivation for forging pay stubs is to bypass the landlord or property manager’s income requirements. For example, if an individual is interested in renting your property but they don’t make enough money to pay the rent, they can create some fake pay stubs to make it look like they have a higher income. 

Renting to such a tenant can have severe consequences for property owners. If the tenant is approved for the rental based on false financial information, they could struggle to make rent payments in the future. Not only could this affect you financially, but you may eventually be forced to evict them. Evictions can be costly, time-consuming, and emotionally draining for both the landlord and tenant—so they’re best avoided whenever possible. 

Red Flags: What to Look For on Pay Stubs

To avoid being duped by fake pay stubs, here are some of the most common red flags to watch for:

  • Perfectly Rounded Numbers

An authentic pay stub will reflect the exact earnings down to the penny, and they rarely come out to perfectly rounded numbers. If you see a pay stub that’s exactly $1,500.00, for example, it suggests the individual might have used a fake pay stub template and hastily filled in arbitrary numbers without considering the accuracy of a genuine pay stub. 

  • Unprofessional Appearance

Pay stubs are usually prepared by professional HR staff or accountants who are well-versed in presenting accurate and organized financial information, so it’s important to pay attention to the overall appearance and presentation of the pay stub. 

If the pay stub is genuine, all the information should be legible and easy to read; there shouldn’t be any blurriness, smudging, or misaligned numbers or letters. Everything should be organized in a logical way, rather than arranged haphazardly. Another clue that you may be dealing with a fake pay stub is typos or other errors. A professionally prepared pay stub will be carefully proofread and verified before it’s issued to the employee. 

  • Is There a Difference Between 0’s and O’s?

Another detail to be attentive to is the distinction between the capital letter “O” and the number “0” on the pay stub. Swapping 0 for O (or vice-versa) isn’t a mistake an HR professional or accountant would make. 

When reviewing an applicant’s pay stub, pay close attention to instances where these characters are used, such as employee identification numbers, salary figures, or other numerical data. Regardless of the type of font, the number 0 typically appears slightly taller and oval-shaped, while the letter O is more rounded. 

  • Inconsistent Information

One of the most common errors that individuals make when creating fake pay stubs is omitting personal details or providing inconsistent information. Like other official documents, an authentic pay stub will generally include the individual’s name, address, social security number, and other personal information in multiple sections. 

When reviewing a pay stub, make sure to verify that all personal information is consistent throughout the document. Inconsistencies or missing information in any of these sections could indicate that the pay stub is fabricated or altered.

Tips for Spotting Fake W2s

Pay stubs aren’t the only false documents applicants forge; W2s are also a common target. W2 forms, also known as Wage and Tax Statements, provide a comprehensive overview of an individual’s earnings and tax withholdings throughout the year. Since they play a crucial role in tax reporting and income verification, applicants may attempt to fake or alter W2s to inflate their income or misrepresent their financial stability.

To check for fake W2 forms, run through the above list, keeping an eye out for perfectly rounded numbers, unprofessional mistakes, 0’s and O’s being swapped, and missing or inconsistent information. You should also consider using a tenant verification service to ensure that the company is real and that the applicant actually works there. 

What Should You Do If You Receive a Fake Pay Stub?

If you’re concerned you may have received a fake pay stub or other falsified proof of income from a rental applicant, it’s important to make sure you’re careful of how you handle it. To avoid making accusations of fraud or violating Fair Housing laws, follow these steps:

  1. Reach out to the applicant and let them know that you’re having difficulty verifying their proof of income using the documents that they submitted. Avoid making any assumptions or accusations and keep your communication professional and respectful. 
  1. Ask the applicant to provide an additional form of income verification. You can request two months of bank statements and the last two years of tax returns, as these will provide a more comprehensive view of their financial situation. 
  1. Give the applicant a deadline for submitting the requested additional documents and stick to it. This will establish a sense of urgency and demonstrates your commitment to thorough tenant screening. 

Although these steps may be slightly inconvenient for honest renters, they’ll be happy to comply with your request if they’re truly interested in renting your property. In contrast, dishonest applicants may realize their forgery was discovered and decide to move on. 

If you suspect a fake pay stub may have slipped through your screening process despite your best efforts, and you’ve already accepted the applicant as your tenant, there are still options available. However, it’s crucial to seek legal counsel before proceeding further. Preparing the necessary documentation and evidence to support your case is essential in these situations, as they may lead to eviction proceedings.

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Tenant Screening

Ensuring the reliability and credibility of your potential tenants is essential for safeguarding your rental property and minimizing rental risks. Apart from scrutinizing the provided documents during the rental application process, it’s essential to implement a comprehensive tenant screening process. By informing your applicants about the screening process from the beginning, you set clear expectations and encourage mutual transparency.

A thorough tenant screening process should include running credit checks, background checks, and eviction checks to gain a complete understanding of each applicant’s financial history and rental track record. This in-depth evaluation provides valuable insights into their ability to meet your rental criteria and be responsible tenants.

Tenant Screening Center offers a range of tenant screening services tailored to your needs. From credit checks and background checks to tenant verification services, we provide the insights you need to make informed rental decisions. Order your tenant screening reports today or feel free to contact us at 800-523-2381

Landlords Property Managers Contact TSCI