How to spot counterfeit money | Personal finance

Money isn’t as popular as it once was, but that hasn’t put the counterfeiters out of the way. A 2020 survey cited in a recent Federal Reserve report showed U.S. consumers only used cash for 19% of their transactions. It is harder to find real statistics showing how much counterfeit money is. Often, the number advertised on the Internet is $ 70 million, but it is based on a 2006 report from the US Department of the Treasury.

However, it is common to hear local news about counterfeit money. For example, earlier this year, a Home Depot worker was arrested for stealing $ 387,500 from the company over four years, taking real money and exchanging it for counterfeit bills.

If you want to know more about how to spot fake money, here’s how you should look at your money.

Evaluate the feel of the card

Features to watch out for:

  • The plot.
  • A freshness that should be there.
  • Slightly raised ink.

This observation is based on visceral instinct.
“Most counterfeits are identified by the feel of the document,” says L. Burke Files, president of Financial Examinations & Evaluations, a firm that conducts investigation, risk management and other types of consulting in Tempe, Arizona.

In general, counterfeit money “doesn’t have the crunchy cash feel and embossed feel of black ink on the front of bills,” he says.

Files, who has been a financial investigator for 30 years, says counterfeit money is a problem in every country and around the world. He also says that many entrepreneurs sadly seem to accept – and pass on – counterfeit dollars knowing they are fake. Often, when a business owner or consumer hands over fake money to the authorities, they are not refunded for that invoice.

“As one person told me, it only gets sick when someone can’t get it,” says Files. Another tip when you feel the consistency of the note: try to understand if the ink is raised.

“Genuine currency has slightly increased the ink. Therefore, you should be able to feel the consistency of the ink, ”says Rita Mkrtchyan, senior finance and litigation attorney at the Oak View Law Group with offices in Florida and California. She has advised many clients, often service sector startup company, how to avoid losses, including how to detect counterfeit US money.

Check the ink changes color

Features to watch out for:

  • Ink that changes color.
  • Study the right corner of the bill.
  • Works with bills of $ 10 and up.

The paper money in your hand should change color.
“One of the easiest ways to spot a counterfeit bill is to see if the bottom right corner of the bill has ink that changes color,” says Austin Fain, owner of Perfect Steel Solutions, a roofing contractor in Fort Wayne, USA. Indiana. Fain says that most of the company’s transactions are in cash, and because such cash transactions are often a sizable amount, he and his employees have become amateur cash savvy.

“For all bills except the new $ 5 bill, you can tilt it back and forth and if the number in the lower right corner doesn’t change from green to black or gold to green, chances are you are A fake account was handed over, “says Fain.

Study the watermark

Features to watch out for:

  • The watermark.
  • Check the right side of the bill.
  • Make sure your lighting is good.

“The watermark is a hallmark of a genuine banknote,” says Fain. “On some banknotes it is a replica of the face on the banknote and for others it may be just an oval spot. If you hold the bill against the light, the watermarks should be visible on the right side of the bill. Make sure that if the watermark is a replica of the face, it matches the face exactly. “
Fain adds that if you hold the note towards the light and there is no watermark or if you can see the watermark even without lifting it towards the light, then the note you are holding is likely a counterfeit.

Look for the embossed print

Features to watch out for:

  • Relief print.
  • Double-check the watermark and color-changing ink.

“One of the most difficult aspects of a genuine banknote for counterfeiters to reproduce is the embossing,” says Fain. “To detect it, all you have to do is slide your fingernail slowly and carefully along the note. You will feel resistance from the note and some vibrations on the nail from the ridges of the embossed print. “
If you don’t feel the vibration or resistance, this is where Fain suggests double-checking that watermark and looking for color-changing ink.

Check the serial number

Features to watch out for:

  • The serial number.
  • Compare serial numbers if you have more than one suspected counterfeit invoice.

You’ve probably heard this before, but what are you looking for? Mkrtchyan states that counterfeit banknotes can have serial numbers that are not evenly spaced or not perfectly aligned in a row.
“Also, if you have received multiple suspicious invoices, look to see if the serial numbers are the same on both banknotes. Clearly, if they are the same, then they are counterfeit, “says Mkrtchyan.

Look for fibers

Features to watch out for:

  • Look for red fibers.
  • Look for the blue fibers.
  • Pay attention to make sure they are actually fiber.

We think of paper money as paper, but it’s actually made of cotton and linen – and that allows the US Treasury to do some pretty cool things with “paper” money.
“All US banknotes have tiny red and blue fibers embedded in the paper,” says Mkrtchyan. “The red and blue lines don’t have to be printed or drawn, as is common on counterfeit currency, but they should rather be part of the card itself.”

Look for the plastic strip in the bill

Features to watch out for:

  • A strip of plastic that runs from the top to the bottom of the bill.
  • Search for “USA” on the account.
  • Only works for bills of $ 5 and up.

There is a lot to be done to make money that we probably all take for granted. Mkrtchyan suggests looking for the plastic strip that goes from the top to the bottom of the bill.
“The print will say ‘USA’ followed by the note denomination, which is spelled out for $ 5, $ 10 and $ 20 notes but presented in numbers on the $ 50 and $ 100 notes,” he says.

The $ 1 and $ 2 don’t have these plastic strips. Apparently there isn’t much of a counterfeiting problem with those banknotes.

“These threads are placed in different places on each denomination to prevent lower denomination bills from being bleached and reprinted as higher denominations. Therefore, you would have to compare bills of the same denomination to detect the same stripe position, “says Mkrtchyan.

Seeking microprint

Features to watch out for:

  • You’re looking for microprint, hidden on the bill.
  • Microprints are often phrases that have to do with the United States.

You will need to use a magnifying glass to look for the microprint. Files suggests 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 the $ 5 bill, Files suggests looking at the eagle shield. In these places you will find phrases like “The United States of America”, “USA” or “E. Pluribus Unum.
It’s no secret that these words appear on banknotes, but micro-printing is difficult for counterfeiters to duplicate.

Do you need special tools to spot counterfeit money?

It doesn’t hurt to use special tools to detect counterfeit money, but as you read, you don’t need them.

There’s the AccuBANKER Cash + Card Counterfeit Detector, currently $ 64.99 on Amazon. It offers features to help employees determine if they are looking at real money or fake money, as well as a real or fake credit card, based on the product description. It has LED lights and a built-in ruler to check the size of the bill, among other features.

There are many other counterfeit banknote detectors where you put money into the machine and it will determine if it is fake or not. Prices vary enormously. You can find them for under $ 100, but there are plenty of options that cost a lot more.

There are also counterfeit pens, often in packs of 5 for $ 10, which claim to find counterfeit bills. In theory, if you write on money, you will see gold ink if the bill is good and black ink if it is bad. You will find mixed reviews on such products, however, since these pens don’t seem to work as well if you come across a really well-made and sophisticated counterfeit banknote.

You can also find ultraviolet flashlights on Amazon and at home improvement and hardware stores, among other places.

“Put a bill on a piece of white paper and light them both with your UV flashlight,” says Files. “The card will glow beautifully and brightly, but the authentic currency won’t. Also, the denomination strands will glow a different color for each denomination except $ 1. Blue for $ 5, orange for $ 10, green for $ 20, yellow for $ 50, and reddish for $ 100.

What should you do if you suspect you have a counterfeit invoice?

The US Treasury Department has some tips on its website, as do credit unions and banks. Some of the tips you will find include the following:

  • Don’t say anything that could put you in danger. For example, yelling at the person who handed you the bill wouldn’t be smart if that person is prone to violence. What if you’re wrong about the person who gave you the fake money? This could be a completely innocent and unsuspecting consumer who doesn’t know the invoice is counterfeit.
  • Do not return the bill to the passer-by. You’ll want to keep that account and contact the police as soon as possible.
  • Take mental notes. The Treasury suggests, if you can do it safely, “look at the description of the passerby – and the descriptions of his companions – and write down the license plates of their vehicles, if you can.” The police will probably want to talk to that person.
  • Contact the authorities. Or contact the police, suggests the Treasury, or the local US intelligence office. You can also go to the Secret Service website and fill out a form, reporting the counterfeit money.
  • Don’t touch the money too much. Put it in a plastic bag or envelope for the authorities to collect later. This is proof, after all, and in the unlikely event that your fingerprints can be detected, you don’t want to confuse things with your own fingerprints or damage the account in any way. Also, the last thing you want is to accidentally confuse fake money with your real money. Separating it in a bag should prevent this from happening.


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