Security Printing – Invisible to the Untrained Eye

As a leading communication and print solution provider, Vanguard Direct often fields unusual print requests. In recent years, two of our clients asked us to provide solutions that would prevent the counterfeiting of valuable mass-produced printed matter. Both clients had had bad experiences in the past and looked to Vanguard to provide solutions that would put an end to counterfeit documents. Each solution had to involve an easy check for authenticity, minimal training of client personnel with little or no technical printing background, and no sophisticated and expensive examination equipment.

We used our experience to understand the problems and to pick the best, cost-effective security solutions.

Technical methods and measures used in security printing include: special paper, watermarks, intaglio printing, geometric lathe work, micro-printing, optically variable color-changing inks, holograms, security threads, magnetic ink, serial numbers, anti-copying marks, prismatic coloration, halos, false-positive testing, fluorescent dyes, registration of features on both sides, electronic devices, thermochromatic ink, and latent images (Wikipedia).

Though the possible methods of preventing and deterring counterfeiting are many and varied, we’ll discuss only two of them here. In both cases, the documents we needed to produce and protect had a high monetary value. Our goal was to introduce visible, recognizable deterrents as well as invisible (to the untrained eye) elements to ward off any attempts at forgery, tampering, or counterfeiting.

Client Need 1 – Valuable Event Tickets

After meeting with our customer’s production and security staff to discuss previous problems and concerns with event tickets, we suggested solutions and their estimated costs. We discussed each option until a solution was chosen that included special shaped holograms and serial numbers. Besides these visible deterrents, the solution also included supervised steps along the manufacturing path. A log-in and sign-off book followed the work-flow process and noted the destruction of all printing files, plates, and print production waste as well as the inspection of specially sealed packages. A special courier delivered the completed ticket packages to the client along with a notarized affidavit outlining each step in the work-flow logbook.

Checkpoints for inspecting and collecting each ticket from each invited guest were manned by client personnel who had been trained to check by eye for the visible and not-so-visible deterrents. (Each year, modifications have been made to the technical methods that add to the security process.)

Client Need 2 –Valuable Application Forms

On this project our challenge was to ensure customer-outsourced care providers submit only one single-sheet application per candidate enrolled. Each enrolled candidate earns rewards for the care provider, so the greater the number of candidates enrolled, the greater the reward. (To help deliver adequate security and prevent fraud, we have added and varied security deterrents each year.)

  • Techniques to limit the number of applications made available to each provider were introduced. Applications were distributed in carefully counted lots and packaged with an equal number of program guide booklets.
  • We have varied the ways of matching program guide booklets to applications each year. Those looking to cheat the system were left challenged.

The success of these programs has been measured by the absence of breaches in security over the years. Being mostly invisible has been utterly successful!

Author: Paul Grieco


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