Cash isn’t as popular as it used to be, but it hasn’t put fraudsters out of business. A recent 2020 survey cited federal reserve report showed that US consumers used cash for only 19% of their transactions. It is hard to find real figures showing how much counterfeit cash is. Often, the number on the Internet is around $70 million, but this is based on a 2006 report from the United States Treasury Department.
Nevertheless, it is common to hear local news about counterfeit money. For example, earlier this yearA Home Depot employee was arrested over four years for stealing $387,500 from the company—by taking real money and switching it up with counterfeit bills.
If you want to learn more about how to detect counterfeit money, here’s how you should look at your cash.
Evaluate the spirit of the paper
- A crispness that should be there.
- Slightly raised ink.
This observation is based on gut instinct.
“Most fakes are identified by the spirit of the paper,” says L. Burke Files, president of Financial Examination and Evaluation, a firm that conducts investigations, risk management and other types of consulting in Tempe, Arizona.
Typically, counterfeit money “doesn’t have the feeling of chair money and has a raised feeling of black ink on the front of the bills,” he says.
Files, who has been a financial investigator for 30 years, says counterfeit money is a problem in all countries and around the world. He also says that unfortunately some business owners accept – and pass on – counterfeit dollars knowing they are fake. Often, when a business owner or consumer gives counterfeit money to executives, they are not reimbursed for that bill.
“As one person told me, it only gets worse when someone fails to take it,” Files says. Another suggestion when you’re feeling the texture of the bill – try to tell if the ink has picked up.
“The ink is slightly raised in the real currency. So, you should be able to feel the texture of the ink,” says Rita Mkrtchyan, a senior finance and litigation defense attorney at Oak View Law Group with offices in Florida and California. She has given advice to many clients, often startup companies in the service industry, on how to avoid losses, including detecting counterfeit US money.
check color changing ink
- Color changing ink.
- Study the right corner of the bill.
- Works with bills of $10 and up.
The paper currency you have should change its color.
Austin Fein, owner of Perfect Steel Solutions, a roofing contractor in Fort Wayne, Indiana, says, “One of the easiest ways to detect a fake bill is to see if there is color-changing ink in the bottom right corner of the bill ” , Fein says that most of the company’s transactions take place in cash, and since those cash transactions are often substantial, he and his employees have become amateur cash experts.
“For all bills, except the new $5 bill, you can tilt it back and forth and if the numeral in the lower right corner doesn’t change from green to black or gold to green, you most likely have a fake. The bill has been handed over,” Fenn says.
- Check the right side of the bill.
- Make sure your lighting is good.
“The watermark is the hallmark of an authentic bill,” Fenn says. “On some bills it is a replica of the face on the bill and for others it may just be an oval spot. If you hold the bill up to the light, the watermark should appear on the right side of the bill. Make sure if the watermark is a replica of the face. So it matches the face exactly.”
Fenn says that if you hold the bill up to the light and there’s no watermark or if you can see the watermark without facing the light, the bill you’re holding is probably a fake.
look for embossed printing
- Raised printing.
- Double-check the watermark and color-changing ink.
“One of the most difficult aspects of an authentic banknote for counterfeiters to reproduce is the raised printing,” Fenn says. “To detect it, all you need to do is run your fingernail slowly and carefully down the note. You’ll feel resistance from the note and some vibration on your nail from the raised print streaks.”
If you don’t feel vibration or resistance, Fein suggests double-checking that watermark and looking for a color-changing ink.
check serial number
- serial number.
- Compare serial numbers if you have more than one suspected counterfeit bill.
You’ve probably heard that before, but what are you looking for? Mkrtchyan says counterfeit bills can have serial numbers that aren’t evenly spaced or that don’t align perfectly on a line.
“Also, if you have received multiple suspicious bills, see if the serial numbers on both the bills are the same. Clearly, if they’re the same, they’re fake,” says Mkrtchyan.
look for fiber
- Look for red fibers.
- Look for blue fibers.
- Pay attention to make sure they are actually fiber.
We tend to think of paper money as paper, but it’s actually made of cotton and linen—and this allows the US Treasury to do some really cool things with “paper” money.
“All American bills have tiny red and blue fibers in the paper,” Mkrtchyan says. “The red and blue lines should not be printed or drawn, as is common on counterfeit currency, but should be part of the paper itself.”
Look for the Plastic Strip in the Bill
- A plastic strip that runs from the top of the bill to the bottom.
- Look for “USA” on the bill.
- This only works for $5 bills and more.
There’s a lot that goes into making money that we probably all take for granted. Mkrtchyan suggests looking for a plastic strip that runs from the top to the bottom of the bill.
“The printing will say ‘USA,’ followed by the denomination of the bill, which is written for $5, $10 and $20 bills but presented in numerals on $50 and $100 bills,” she says.
$1 and $2 don’t have these plastic strips. Obviously those bills don’t have that much of a problem of counterfeiting.
“These threads are kept at different places on each denomination so that bills of lower denomination can be bleached and reprinted as higher denominations. Therefore, you should compare bills of the same denomination to find the same location as the bar,” says Mkrtchyan.
Looking for Microprinting
- You are looking for hidden microprinting on the bill.
- Microprinting is often a phrase related to the United States.
You have to use a magnifying glass to see the microprinting. The files suggest looking at Benjamin Franklin’s collar on the $100 bill. If you have a $50 bill, look at Grant’s collar. Look under the treasurer’s signature on the $20 bill, and on the $5 bill, the files suggest looking at the eagle’s shield. In these places, you’ll find phrases like “United States,” “USA” or “E.” Pluribus Unum.”
It’s no secret that these words appear on bills, but it is difficult for counterfeiters to imitate.
Do you need special tools to detect counterfeit money?
It can’t hurt to use special tools to detect counterfeit money, but as you read, you don’t need them.
The AccuBANKER Cash+ Card Fake Detector is currently $64.99 on Amazon. It provides features to help employees determine whether they are looking at genuine cash or counterfeit cash as well as genuine or counterfeit credit cards according to the product description. It has LED lights and an integrated ruler to check the dimensions of the bill, among other features.
There are many other counterfeit bill detector machines where you put money into the machine, and this will determine if it is a fake. Prices vary wildly. You can find them for less than $100, but there are many options that cost a lot more.
There are also counterfeit pens, which often come in packs of 5 for $10, to spot counterfeit bills. In theory, if you write on money, you’ll see gold ink if the bill is good, and black ink if it’s bad. You’ll find mixed reviews on products like this one, however, so these pens don’t work as well if you face a really well-done, sophisticated counterfeit bill.
You can find ultraviolet flashlights on Amazon and other places, as well as at home improvement and hardware stores.
“Place a bill on a white piece of bond paper and illuminate both with your UV torch,” Files says. “Paper will light up nice and bright, but authentic currency will not. Plus, the denomination threads will glow a different color for each denomination, except $1. Blue for $5, orange for $10, green for $20.” Yellow for $50 and Red for $100.
What should you do if you suspect that you have a counterfeit bill?
The US Department of the Treasury has some suggestions on its website, as do credit unions and banks. Some of the tips you can get include the following:
- Don’t say anything that would put you in danger. For example, it wouldn’t be smart to yell at the person who billed you if that person is prone to violence. Plus, what if you’re wrong about the person who gave you the fake cash? It could be a completely innocent and unsuspecting consumer who does not know that the bill is fake.
- Do not return the bill to the passerby. You’ll want to hang onto that bill, and contact the police as soon as possible.
- Take mental notes. The Treasury suggests, if you can do it safely, “inspect the passenger’s details — and the details of their companions — and write down their vehicle license plate numbers if you can.” The police will probably want to talk to that person.
- Contact the authorities. Either contact the police, the Treasury suggests, or contact your local US Secret Service field office. you can also go secret service website And fill out a form reporting counterfeit money.
- Don’t touch the money too much. Keep it in a plastic bag or envelope, so that officials can collect it later. It’s proof, after all, and in the unlikely event that fingerprints can be detected, you don’t want to confuse things with your own prints or damage the bill in any way. Plus, the last thing you want is to accidentally mix fake money with your real money. Separating it into a bag should prevent this from happening.