Counterfeit Currency

People blame the poor economy for the increases in counterfeit currency. Recently, some young men in Texas claimed they counterfeited $100s because their rent was due. From there, they estimate they counterfeited and spent over $10,000 in a short amount of time.

They and other counterfeiters use smaller bills – $5s and $10s – removing the ink and reprinting $100 characteristics. The paper is correct but all of the other security measures are not. (Remember, our currency is not paper but a blend of cotton and linen fibers.)

If you are the unlucky recipient of a counterfeit bill, you lose. Most simply, you lose the money. But it could be more complex. You could lose a lot of time and anxiety explaining why you tried to spend a counterfeit bill whether it was a conscious or unconcious choice.

Isn’t there a saying, “The best defense is a good offense?” Educating yourself on our currency’s security characteristics becomes your best offensive maneuver.

Each bill has specific characteristics. Luckily, the US Treasury Department has the new $5, $10, $20 and $50 characteristics outlined for you at their newmoney site.

However, since old currency is still in circulation, another US Treasury site provides details about the earlier currency.

Frequently counterfeited, the $100 bill was redone and released in 1996; however the Treasury department will be adding more security to it soon as well. In the meantime, the characteristics and security precautions can be found on the $100 1996 – 2003A site.

On the new $5, $10, $20 and $50 bills, multiple security characteristics help you determine if the visible denomination is the true denomination of the bill. For example, if the security thread shows “USA 5” when backlit but the visible picture is Franklin from a $100, the bill is counterfeit.

In addition to the security thread which is unique to each denomination, other security measures include Color Shifting Ink, Watermark, Bill Color, Symbols of Freedom, Enhanced Portraits and Small Yellow Numbers.

For the 1996-2003A $100 bills, the security measures differ slightly. They include Watermark, Security Thread, Fine Line Printing, Microprinting and Color Shifting Ink.

But, the challenge remains – you need to be knowledgeable about all the different versions of the currency. Your objective is to not lose money or time due to a counterfeiter.

For additional information, the Secret Service protects our currency and includes tips for detecting fraud on their Know your Money web site. (Make sure you go through all of their pages as they also include tips on counterfeit coins and counterfeit US Treasury checks.)

Since the security threads and the watermarks are embedded in the cotton/linen fibers, those characteristics cannot be easily duplicated. Hold the suspect bill in front of a strong light source. Look for the security threads and watermarks, and remember, they are different for each bill.

With knowledge and a little practice, you will quickly check the bills and confidently know if you have real currency.