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How to Detect Counterfeit US Money


Feel the texture of the bill.

People who handle money many times, such as cashiers, can identify a lower-quality fake bill instantly just by touching it. You may not have that much experience, but just about everybody has handled enough money that they can detect many counterfeits simply by feeling the texture, and paying attention (the paper that bank notes are printed on is not sold commercially; furthermore, the composition of the paper and ink is confidential). Genuine currency has slightly raised ink. You should be able to feel the texture of this ink, especially if you are holding a new dollar bill.

Compare the bill with another of the same denomination and series.

If the bill feels all right, or if you are a little suspicious but unsure, hold the bill side by side with another bill. Different denominations, obviously, look different, so get a note of the same amount. Also, all denominations, except the $1 and $2, have been redesigned at least once since 1990, so it is best to compare the suspect bill to one in the same series, or date.

Notice the relative flatness and lack of detail on the fake bill.

Look carefully at the printing quality. Real U.S. bills are printed using techniques that regular offset printing and digital printing (the most popular tools for all but the most sophisticated counterfeiters) cannot replicate. Look for blurry areas, especially in fine details such as around the borders--real bills have clear, unbroken borders--and on the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals, where the saw tooth points should be sharp and well-defined in genuine bills. Portraits in fake bills may appear dull, blurred, and flat, while in real currency, the portraits are sharp and contain very fine detailing.

Look for colored fibers in the paper.

All U.S. bills have tiny red and blue fibers embedded in the paper. Counterfeiters sometimes try to reproduce these by printing or drawing these fibers onto the paper, but close inspection reveals, however, that on the counterfeit note you will see that they are printed on, rather than being part of the paper itself.

Examine the serial numbers.

Make sure that the serial numbers on a bill match, and look at them carefully. Fake bills may have serial numbers that are not evenly spaced or that are not perfectly aligned in a row. If you received multiple suspicious bills, see if the serial numbers are the same on both bills. If they are the same, then they are counterfeit notes.

Look for security features in all denominations, except the $1 and $2.

The easiest way to spot a fake $5, $10, $20, $50 or $100 bill is to look for the following security features, all of which are very difficult to fake.

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