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What is MICR?
MICR is an acronym for magnetic ink character recognition. It is used in the banking industry for check printing to increase productivity and efficiency. MICR ink and MICR toner is also required by the Federal Reserve to ease check processing. MICR toner consists of magnetic ink printed characters of a special design which can be recognized by high speed magnetic recognition equipment. Once a check goes through the high speed readers, it provides the receiving party with information needed for processing the check including: check number, bank routing number, checking account number and in some cases the amount of the check.
Check fraud is the most dominant form of payment fraud, representing 43 percent of all payment fraud losses, surpassing credit card fraud, ACH fraud and wire fraud. A full 71 percent of companies experienced actual or attempted check fraud. Clever check fraud gangs constantly try new techniques to beat the banking system and steal money. While one might expect banks to be liable for these losses, revisions in the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) have shifted the liability from the bank to the party in the best position to prevent the loss. Today, the losses are shared between a bank and its customer based upon each party’s comparative negligence.
MICR characters are printed in the form of either an e-13b or cmc-7 font. Each font series is made up of a series of numbers and symbols specifically designed for readability on check sorting machines which read at extremely high rates of speed. The symbols provide a beginning and ending point for each group of numbers allowing the machine to quickly determine what each series of number signifies. Line placement, character placement, skew and quality are several critical components of printing MICR; the line must be precisely positioned in the MICR clear band area. To create consistency in the check clearing process it is critical that each character is readable and that the printing methods are reliable.