Document forgery now costs U. S. banks more money than armed robberies, some experts say. One big factor: the emergence of optical scanners, desktop publishing, and high-quality color copiers that make it a relative snap to make phony checks.

Standard Register Co., a maker of business forms, thinks it has come up with some tricks to foil high-tech forgers. It has devised a way to emblazon paper with a watermark that's visible only when viewed from an angle of 45 degrees to the paper's surface. That will fake out photocopiers, which view originals head-on. Standard Register also sells paper that's treated with a secret chemical that makes laser-printer ink stick better--making it hard to alter dollar amounts without easy detection. The Dayton company says it has an inside track on catching fraud artists: It has hired Frank Abagnale, a convicted-forger-turned-consultant who, between the ages of 16 and 21, cashed $2.5 million worth of bogus checks in 26 countries.

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