3 Surprising Ways Tenants Fake Income Verification Documents for Apartments and What Landlords Can Do About It

Stack of $1 bills on the corner of a pay stub.

Authenticating income verifications and background checks is one of the many tasks of a property manager or landlord. Property management is a rewarding career for anyone who loves to organize, bring people together, and recognize the value of a happy neighborhood. It isn’t all fun and games, however. 

Some of the daily chores of maintaining a community can be challenging. Not all tenants are honest and courteous. Some have the sole intention of defrauding any community they can to secure a place to live. This act requires faking pay stubs and other income verification to obtain a rental agreement. This guide explains what income verification is, how people manufacture it, and what property managers can do to stop it from affecting their community. 

Income Verification Documents

Community managers must be certain a lease candidate can pay rent and uphold the responsibilities of tenancy before they offer them a rental agreement. Verifying this information helps ensure they are a good fit for the rental unit. Prospective tenants use pay stubs, bank statements, and tax documents to verify their income. 

Some rental candidates can’t pass the income requirements and resort to faking documents to rent a home. There are a few telltale signs that usually give fake documents away to alert community managers.

How Verification Documents Can Be Forged

Unscrupulous tenants can be quite creative when attempting to defraud property managers and landlords. Multiple techniques for faking income verification exist, from creating them from scratch to stealing them. These are the most common:


Certain websites allow users to create and print pay stubs. Some charge a fee while others are free to use. Most intend to be actual pay stubs for real work, but it isn’t difficult to plug in some fake information and print out a fraudulent pay stub. 


People familiar with word processing might opt to create their own fake income verification from scratch. Easily accessible programs such as Open Office or Microsoft Word work perfectly. Potential renters can simply create a phony pay stub or write a fraudulent income verification letter and print it out.


Some potential tenants will even resort to stealing pay stubs, personal information, and other credentials and use them for their own purposes. They could swipe a friend’s pay stub, for example, and with some whiteout and a typewriter they can manipulate the information to look like their own.

Fake income verification documents have significantly improved with technology. Most are still easy to spot if you know what to look for, however.

6 Ways to Spot Fake Income Verification Documents

Pay stubs, income verification, and similar documents can be created from scratch, stolen, and falsified online with paid software, free programs, and advanced editing tools. Smartphones can also be used to alter documents with the right app, meaning almost anyone can make a phony document.

There are some common indicators found on fake income documents. Be on the lookout for the following red flags that tell you you’re looking at a fake.

1. Misspellings

Not every document forger thinks to use a spellchecker. Forged documents typically contain misspelled words, such as achieve, deposit, and government, as a result. Even simple words are misspelled on the worst phony documents, since most criminals are not criminal masterminds.

2. Appearance

The overall appearance of a document is another good indicator of its authenticity. Blurry documents, out-of-line text, unusual typefaces, and hard-to-understand phrases are all red flags of a fake document. Professionals such as accountants and HR executives don’t produce blurry, suspicious-looking documents.

3. Nonsensical Numbers

Most paychecks don’t end in round numbers, but people usually make up round numbers when they lie. Paychecks typically end in odd numbers after taxes and other deductions are made. A paycheck will more often read $237.77 than it will $300.00, for instance. There is a good chance that a potential tenant who produces several paychecks that all end in round numbers is providing forged documents.

4. Inconsistent Information

Comparing data on all income verification documents is an easy way to catch a fake. Net income should line up with gross income without any incorrect math. The same name should be used with the same spelling on every document. Inconsistent data across several forms of income verification usually indicate fraudulent activity.

5. Swapped Numbers and Letters

Fraudulent documents might have the letter “O” substituting for the number “0,” or the letter “l” for a number “1.” These differences are subtle but critical. Accountants and HR executives don’t make these kinds of mistakes because they have professional software that performs the perfunctory tasks for them, so there is no room for errors.

6. Lacks Professional Details

Accounting software automatically inputs the company’s name, date, financial institution, and other pertinent information on each pay stub. This service is provided so the employee can better keep track of their financial information. Personal checks will have specific identifying information as well. Pay stubs and other verification documents that are ambiguous without any identifying information are probably fake.

Intuition might be the very best indicator of a fake document. Sometimes none of the red flags are present, but you still have that suspicious feeling. 

Landlords have a few options when they know they’ve received false documentation.

Appropriate Actions When Income Verification Is Fake 

Submitting false information to prove income is a crime. There are a few legal options for landlords that depend on when the false information was discovered. Landlords can choose to:

  • Deny the rental candidate’s application.
  • Evict a tenant who previously submitted incorrect information.
  • Pursue legal damages in court.

Verifying income reports for potential tenants is a tedious but necessary task. It can be easier with due diligence and a sharp eye, however.

How to Get Help Validating Tenant Income Documents

A sharp eye and attention to detail go a long way in spotting fake pay stubs, but Rent Safe makes it even easier. We are a digital service that helps landlords streamline the steps it takes to screen potential tenants. We also allow renters to easy-submit the correct documents they need for a rental application

Contact the Rent Safe team to see how our platform can help simplify your rental applicant screening processes.

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