Ways In Which You Can Tell If Your Pay Stub Is Fake


Pay stubs have many uses, and there are various situations where you can be asked to produce them. It’s because they’re among the documents required to show proof of income or as verification for employment. Pay stubs may be required when applying to rent a home or apartment and seeking financing.

You’ll also need them to clarify payroll errors, show proof of previous earnings, and when filing your income tax. Talking of payroll errors, it’s not uncommon for you to receive a pay stub that has errors. In fact, one survey indicated that up to 82 million American workers have experienced some type of mistake on their pay stubs. 

Sometimes, the errors on the paystub are genuine mistakes, but others aren’t. But how do you tell if your pay stub is fake in the first place? This article shares the telltale signs, mainly when using pay stubs as an income or employment verification document.

 piles of paper

How people make fake pay stubs

There are dozens of online pay stub generators, which makes creating fake pay stubs reasonably easy. All you need is to go to a website and create a pay stub under your terms. You can even use a legitimate business or your employer’s name and enter whatever amount you pretend to earn.

This isn’t to say that online pay stub generators are at fault. It’s only that people use them for dishonest motives. There are many valid reasons to create pay stubs since they’re the best way to show proof of income. However, some devious individuals use these platforms to falsify income and earnings for their gain

Also, some unethical employers fake pay stubs to avoid paying the relevant withholding taxes to the IRS and other regulatory bodies. This is called tax evasion, and it can have dire legal and financial repercussions on a business or individual. It can also implicate employees as accomplices to the tax evasion scam.

If you’re employed and you suspect corruption on the part of your employer, you should seek assistance from a legal professional. This will keep you out of trouble should your employer get caught.

paper on table

How to spot a fake pay stub

You can’t be expected to put every detail of a pay stub under a microscope to verify if it’s fake or not. But there are various ways you can investigate fake check stubs and verification documents to confirm their legitimacy. Here are eight simple ways to tell if your pay stub is fake:  

Perfectly rounded figure

Ask yourself the chances of receiving a paycheck with perfectly rounded figures without extra dollars and cents. The answer is that it probably never happens, if at all. This is one of the first and apparent errors in checking for fake pay stubs and employment verification. 

Figures rounded off to the nearest 100 or 1,000 may signify that those aren’t actual earnings from anywhere. Paychecks rarely, if ever, have round figures.

Unprofessional looking document

Pay stubs are official documents, and the people charged with putting them together are often professional human resource staff and accountants. It’s improbable that they’re going to produce an unprofessional, confusing, and incomprehensible document. 

When a reviewer checks the pay stub, they’ll analyze it to see if the document looks professional enough with digits properly lined and should be clear and legible.

O’s used instead of zeros

Typos on a pay stub are an obvious giveaway. There’s no legitimate payroll service that will make errors such as using the letter O in the place of zero. While the two may share some similarities, they also have noticeable differences. 

Only a non-professional will make such errors, signaling that the pay stub is fake. Besides, other typos in the employer or employee’s name, payroll terms, etc., is a sure way to spot a fake pay stub.


Errors in calculations and year-to-date amounts

In legitimate payroll systems, additions and subtractions are automatic, so there are rarely errors. Mathematical errors in a pay stub show they’ve been manually prepared and is a huge giveaway you may have a fake pay stub in your hands. The same applies to the amounts from one pay stub to another. Inconsistencies are a sign that a pay stub is fake.

Zero payroll deductions

Each pay stub has deductions. If you receive one that shows all zeros, it might be a fake pay stub. Unless someone is self-employed—they’re no taxes being taken out, a pay stub must show the amounts deducted, and it’s not zero.

Varying pay dates

Most employers have a scheduled payment date where they release wages and salaries. It could be weekly, every two weeks, or monthly. Basically, employers always have an organized way of releasing payments. If you see pay stubs from the same employer that have no consistent pay dates, take note. Someone might be using fake pay stubs employment verification or proof of income.  

 Sequential check numbers

Take a good look at the check numbers, if any. First, a paystub should have a check number. If the numbers are missing, you need to take another look. In addition, unless the employer is a one-person business, it’s highly unlikely that check numbers will form a sequence such as 3001, 3002, 3003, etc. Also, check for duplicate check numbers on several pay stubs.

Inconsistent pay stub data 

When using check stubs with verification, there are other documents required. The information should be consistent in all the documents. If the pay stub data doesn’t match the information in the application or other verification documents, this is a sign that the pay stub is fake. Here are two inconsistencies you need to keep an eye on:

  • The employee’s name or social security number (SSN) differs in the documents provided.

  • The employer’s information doesn’t add up. Look out for things such as missing employer contact information, misspelled name, or a non-existent employer.

paper and calculator

Reasons people fake pay stubs

As said earlier, pay stubs are essential documents for proof of income and verification documents. A landlord or a lender will gauge your ability to pay rent or meet loan repayments by checking your income. 

You also need to use pay stubs when filing your income tax. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that people will have reasons to create fake pay stubs. Look at these common reasons people fake pay stubs and the repercussions: 

To scam the government in taxes

Many businesses, contractors, and workers create fake pay stubs showing they paid more taxes than they actually did. If the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) doesn’t catch the error, they’ll receive refunds, which they’re not eligible for, effectively scamming the government. However, if the IRS catches up with your lie, it’s considered tax fraud, and there will be consequences.

Among the consequences is being subject to paying hefty fines. The fines depend on the severity of the fraud and how long you’ve been going on with it. Tax fraud is a severe crime, and you may require the services of a lawyer in this case.

To get financing

This is common with individuals who need to get a loan but don’t qualify because of their earnings. They can create a fake pay stub to show higher wages to better their chances of qualifying for the loan. 

However, this is legally wrong and is considered a criminal act. If caught, the result is heavy fines or jail time. It depends on the loan amount and whether you paid any of the amounts back.


To lease an apartment or home

As with financing, many potential tenants also create fake pay stubs to support their rental applications. Landlords seek tenants who can afford to pay rent each month. Income verifications, therefore, become an essential part of the tenant-screening process, something that a potential tenant can do by showing their pay stubs.

Creating fake pay stubs for that purpose amounts to fraud, and it leads to an eviction. Fraud is also a criminal offense punishable by law.

To hide illegal activities

Some employers fake pay stubs because they’re carrying out illegal activities that they want to hide from the government and their employees. The reason could also be because they’re evading taxes.

This amounts to fraud, and if caught, the employer can face severe penalties that may include jail time. As stated previously, if you have any suspicions about your employer on fake pay stubs, you need to seek legal guidance and report the activity to avoid being held as an accomplice.


Creating fake stubs and presenting them as proof of income amounts to fraud and is a serious criminal offense punishable by law. If you have a pay stub and everything isn’t adding up, follow your instincts. Preparing a fake pay stub that looks genuine is easy. Carry out your due diligence. Look for obvious typographical mistakes, calculations, alignment, and the general presentation of the pay stub.

It also doesn’t hurt to verify the information from the employer. You can also request additional documents, such as a bank statement, to confirm that the amounts were paid to their accounts as shown on the pay stub.

Frequently Asked Questions

Digital pay stubs can be easily manipulated, but physical pay stubs can also be faked. Always verify the authenticity of any pay stub.

Yes, using fake pay stubs for financial gain or deception is considered fraud and can result in legal penalties.

No specific tools exist, but a thorough examination and verification process can help identify fake pay stubs.

Yes, fake pay stubs can be well-designed and look legitimate, so it is important to examine the content closely.

Look for inconsistencies in formatting, incorrect calculations, and misspelled words or terms.

Establish a verification process for pay stubs, request additional documentation, and stay informed about common red flags.

Contact the employer listed on the pay stub or use a third-party service to verify the information.

Fake pay stubs are often created for purposes like obtaining loans, renting apartments, or evading taxes.

Fake pay stubs may have mathematical errors, incorrect pay period dates, or suspicious rounding of numbers.

Verify the information with the employer, request additional documentation, or consult a professional.
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Ways In Which You Can Tell If Your Pay Stub Is Fake
Samantha Clark

A Warrington College of Business graduate, Samantha handles all client relations with our top-tier partners. Read More

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