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When a landlord or property manager is ready to rent their property to a tenant, there are many steps involved.

Some of the steps include listing your property, reviewing rental applications, choosing a prospective tenant, signing the lease, and many more.

Conducting background checks and tenant screenings are very important parts of this process. These allow the landlord to make sure the tenant has no criminal history, verify income, check credit, and much more.

However, some prospective tenants will try to cheat their way through part of this process. In order to trick landlords into thinking they have adequate income, a potential tenant may present fake pay stubs.

These fake pay stubs are used as proof of income and will lead to a lot of trouble. In this guide, we will be going over what these documents are and the best ways to spot fake ones.

We will also be going over some other ways that landlords can conduct the income verification process.

So, to get started, let's go over what these fake pay stubs are and how they are typically acquired.

What Are Fake Pay Stubs?

As mentioned before, a fake pay stub is a document that is used as false proof of income by an applicant. They are typically very similar to an actual pay stub and it may be very difficult to tell the difference.

Landlords typically require income verification documents in order to determine a tenant's ability to pay the rent. By checking a tenant's net pay, credit report, and tax returns, a landlord is able to determine whether or not it is safe to rent out to that tenant. One of the most common forms to verify proof of income is a pay stub. Pay stubs are generally used because they offer information such as the job title, the gross income in the pay period, the actual income, year-to-date tax deductions, and much more.

However, there are many cases where the landlord's income requirements are higher than an applicant's income. This is when that applicant turns to fraudulent documents. A fraudulent document is used to convince the landlord that the applicant is able to comfortably pay rent.

In these cases, it can be extremely beneficial to the landlord to know how to spot these fake stubs. Thankfully, we will be going over the common ways that applicants create fake pay stubs and how to spot them.

How to Spot Fake Pay Stubs

Although spotting fake income verifications is not an exact science, there are some ways that can generally help in the process. Below, we will be outlining the easiest ways to notice if a tenant is using a fraudulent document.

Fake Pay Stubs

Rounded Numbers

One of the quickest ways to tell if an income document is fake is to check if all of the numbers have been rounded. Usually, paychecks do not come out to a perfectly rounded number that has no extra dollars or cents.

This is one of the quickest ways to detect if an applicant's document is fake. It is important to make sure that your applicant's earnings are not rounded to the nearest hundred or thousand because this is a clear signal of fraudulence. This is not very common, however, because it is obvious that paychecks should not have perfectly rounded numbers.

Appearance

Another quick way to tell whether or not a document is real is by its appearance. Typically, income documents are created by people like accountants and HR staff. These professionals are most likely not going to make a document that seems messy and hard to understand.

When reviewing an applicant's pay stub, make sure that it looks professional by looking at the smallest details. All of the numbers and text should be completely legible, with no blurriness whatsoever. Also, it is important to pay close attention to the formatting of the document. All of the numbers should be lined up and the characters should also be properly formatted.

Differentiating Zeros and Os

Another easy way to tell if the document that you have received is fake is if there is no difference between the number "0" and the letter "O". As seen here, the number should be slightly taller and skinnier than the capital letter. This is a mistake that should never be done by any professional and is a quick way to distinguish between a fake and a real document.

Consistency

Although requesting a pay stub is one of the most common ways to verify income, there are many other ways that work just as well. Below, we have listed some of the best alternatives to using a pay stub.nto fake pay stubs . For example, there can be a discrepancy between the social security number given in the pay stub and the one in the application. This is a quick way to raise suspicion regarding the validity of the document.

Confirming with Company

The last, and most consistent, way to tell if a pay stub is fake is to confirm with the company they have listed. Typically, landlords request that applicants provide a reference from their current employer. If the landlord has this, they can contact this reference to make sure that the applicant actually works at the company.

You can also confirm details like the applicant's start date, their job title, and maybe even their income. However, you should be able to tell whether the income is fake just with the start date and the job title.

Now that we know some of the ways that a fake pay stub can be identified, let's look into some other forms of income verification that help landlords ensure that applicants can cover the monthly rent.

Alternate Methods to Verify Income

Although requesting a pay stub is one of the most common ways to verify income, there are many other ways that work just as well. Below, we have listed some of the best alternatives, lowering the risk of receiving fake pay stubs.

W-2 Tax Form

A W-2 is a tax document that must be completed by all employers for all of their employees. On this form, employers report the total annual wages paid to their employees. This is a very quick way to get a full picture of how much the applicant actually earns, similar to the pay stub.

However, these forms will not be available for any self-employed individuals. For these individuals, the closest thing to a W-2 is a 1099 form. This form shows proof of income for sources other than employment, like personal business, assets, or royalties.

Bank Statements

Another way to verify income is to use bank statements. Bank statements can easily be evidence of adequate, steady deposits made to the applicant's account. These bank statements can also be used as a way to discover any unhealthy spending habits.

However, this form of income verification has been deemed intrusive by many. Applicants may argue that spending history should not play a part in determining whether or not to rent out to them. They may also argue that a look into spending history is too personal. Thus, applicants will usually turn to fake pay stubs.

Social Security Benefits Statement

A benefit verification letter is a letter from the Social Security Administration that details any monthly benefits. This is a good way for individuals who receive disability, retirement, or supplemental security income to prove their income.

Employment References / Income Letter

The two final ways to verify the income of an applicant is to request a letter from an employer reference. The way that this works is that the employer is sent a form that should be filled out with the details of an applicant's income details. This way, the income information is coming directly from the employer, and can typically be trusted more.

Conclusion

Verifying the income of an applicant is an essential part of making sure that you are going to have a good tenant. Since a fake pay stub is easy to come across, it is also very important to ensure its validity. After reading through this guide, however, you should be more than prepared to ensure the integrity of income documents and even get proof in other ways.

David Bitton

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his two children, he's writing articles here!