How To Detect Counterfeit US Money

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If you have a bill in your possession and are unsure of its authenticity, follow these steps to certify the real value of your money. It’s illegal to possess, produce, or use counterfeit money; if a prosecutor can prove that you simply have intent to defraud, federal law can punish you with a fine and maximum 20 years in prison. If you acquire a counterfeit banknote, you want to turn it in to the acceptable authorities.

Table of Contents

Examining security measures

Hold the bill up to the sunshine. For all bills except $1 and $2 dollar bills, there should be a security thread (plastic strip) running from top to bottom.

  • The thread is embedded in (not printed on) the paper and runs vertically through the clear field to the left of the Federal Reserve System Seal. On authentic bills, this could be easily visible against a light-weight source.
  • The printing should say “USA” followed by the denomination of the bill, which is spelled out for $10 and $20 bills but presented in numerals on the $5, $50 and $100 bills. These threads are placed in several places on each denomination to stop lower-denomination bills being bleached and reprinted as higher denominations.
  • You ought to be ready to read the inscriptions from both the front or back of the note. Also, it should only be visible against a light-weight source.

Color-shifting Ink

One of the primary things to ascertain to see if a bill is authentic is that if the bill denomination on rock bottom right-hand corner has color-shifting ink. Going back to 1996, all bills of $5 or more have this security feature. If you hold a replacement series bill (except for the new $5 bill) and tilt it back and forth, you’ll see that the numeral within the lower right-hand corner shifts from green to black or from gold to green.

Compare the bill with another of an equivalent denomination and series.

If the bill feels alright, or if you’re a touch suspicious but unsure, hold the bill side by side with another bill. Different denominations, obviously, look different, so get a note of an equivalent amount. Also, all denominations, except the $1 and $2, are redesigned a minimum of once since 1990, so it’s best to match the suspect bill to at least one within the same series, or date.

Judging by Sight

Examine the serial numbers. There should be two serial numbers located on the face of the bill on either side of the portrait. Check out the bill carefully and confirm that the serial numbers match.

  • Check out the color of the serial numbers on the bill and compare it to the color of the Treasury Seal. If they are doing not match, the bill is probably going a fake.
  • Fake bills may have serial numbers that aren’t evenly spaced or that aren’t perfectly aligned during a row.
  • If you receive multiple suspicious bills, see if the serial numbers are an equivalent on across all bills. Counterfeiters often neglect to vary serial numbers on fake bills. If they’re an equivalent, then they’re counterfeit notes.

Handling Counterfeit Money Correctly

Don’t create counterfeit money. It’s illegal to possess, produce, or use counterfeit money; if a prosecutor can prove that you simply have intent to defraud, federal law can punish you with a fine and maximum 20 years in prison.

  • If it’s passed to you, don’t pass the counterfeit currency on to anyone other by following these instructions. Inspect bills the instant you’re suspicious. Remember who gave you which of them bills.
  • If you acquire a counterfeit banknote, you want to turn it into the key Service. Not reporting counterfeit banknotes causes you too susceptible to somebody else turning you certain counterfeit banknotes.


  • Intaglio involves the utilization of a metal plate. In printing, the ink settles within the sunken areas and therefore the smooth surface of the plate is cleaned. The plate, in touch with damp paper, is skilled in a roller press struggling. The paper is forced into the sunken areas to receive the ink. Large scale commercial intaglio is nearly exclusively want to make banknotes.
  • The fine lines within the border of a real bill are clear and unbroken. On the counterfeit, the lines within the outer margin and scroll work could also be blurred and indistinct.
  • Because the steps above explain, the $1 and $2 bills have fewer security measures than other denominations. This is often seldom a drag because counterfeiters rarely attempt to make these bills.
  • It is a common misconception that if the ink smears once you rub the bill on something, the bill isn’t genuine. This is often not necessarily true: non-smearing ink doesn’t guarantee a real bill.
  • The ink utilized in U.S. currency is really magnetic, but this is often not a way for detecting counterfeits. The strength is extremely low and is beneficial just for automated currency counters. If you’ve got a little but strong magnet, like a neodymium magnet, you’ll lift a real bill. Although you can’t lift the bill off of a table, you’ll certainly tell that it’s magnetic.
  • Search for differences, not similarities. Counterfeit bills, if they’re any good in the least, are going to be almost like real ones in some ways, but if a bill differs in only a method, it’s probably fake.
  • “Raised bills” now tend to be a coffee denomination bill bleached of its ink and reprinted as a higher denomination. These raised bills are often quickly detected via the position (or absence) of the safety thread and sort of watermarks, which are found by holding it up to the sunshine. If you’re still unsure, compare the bill to a different bill of an equivalent denomination.
  • The key Service and U.S. Treasury don’t recommend relying solely on a counterfeit-detection pen of the type that you simply often see clerks use in stores. These pens can only indicate whether the note is printed on the incorrect quite paper (they simply react to the presence of starch). As such, they’re going to catch some counterfeits, but they will not detect more sophisticated fakes and can give false-negatives on real money that has been through the wash.
  • The real portrait appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background. The counterfeit portrait is typically lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background, which is usually too dark or mottled.
  • In 2008 the $5 got a redesign with the portrait watermark replaced by a “5” and therefore the security thread being moved from left of the portrait to the proper.


  • Possessing, producing, using, and trying to use counterfeit money is all illegal at the federal level. If a prosecutor can prove that you simply acted with intent to defraud anyone, you’ll face a fine and maximum 20 years in prison. Consult an attorney about proof and indirect evidence showing intent to defraud.
  • States can also have laws against counterfeit currency. For passing counterfeit money, you’ll be charged with forgery, fraud, or other theft offenses.
How To Detect Counterfeit US Money

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