8 Ways to Spot Counterfeit Money
Originally published in Loss Prevention MagazineThough UV counterfeit detection lamps and counterfeit money pens are helpful counterfeit detection tools, there are many ways to tell if a bill is authentic or counterfeit. Physical characteristics of the banknote, such as ink, watermarks and text, are intentional security measures to help people recognize authentic money.
When employees learn how to spot a fake 100 dollar bill, they can help reduce the chances of a business suffering a loss of thousands of dollars.
Color–shifting InkOne of the first things to check to see if a bill is authentic is if the bill denomination on the bottom right-hand corner has color-shifting ink. All bills of $5 or more have this security feature, going back to 1996.
If you hold a new series bill (except for the new $5 bill) and tilt it back and forth, you can see that the numeral in the lower right-hand corner shifts from green to black or from gold to green.
WatermarkThe watermark is a characteristic security feature of authentic banknotes. Many of the new bills use a watermark that is actually a replica of the face on the bill. On other banknotes, it is just an oval spot.
Here are some things to keep in mind when looking at a bill’s watermark:
- The watermark should only be visible when you hold the bill up to the light
- The watermark should be on the right side of the bill
- If the watermark is a face, it should exactly match the face on the bill. Sometimes counterfeits bleach lower bills and reprint them with higher values, in which case the face wouldn’t match the watermark
- If there is no watermark or the watermark is visible without being held up to the light, the bill is most likely a counterfeit
Blurry Borders, Printing or TextAn automatic red flag for counterfeit bills is noticeably blurry borders, printing or text on the bill. Authentic bills are made using die-cut printing plates that create impressively fine lines, so they look extremely detailed. Counterfeit printers are usually not capable of the same level of detail. Take a close look, especially at the borders, to see if there are any blurred parts in the bill. Authentic banknotes also have microprinting, or finely printed text located in various places on the bill. If the microprinting is unreadable, even under a magnifying glass, it is probably counterfeit
Raised PrintingAll authentic banknotes have raised printing, which is difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce. To detect raised printing, run your fingernail carefully down the note. You should feel some vibration on your nail from the ridges of the raised printing. If you don’t feel this texture, then you should check the bill further.
Security Thread with MicroprintingThe security thread is a thin imbedded strip running from top to bottom on the face of a banknote. In the $10 and $50 bills the security strip is located to the right of the portrait, and in the $5, $20 and $100 bills it is located just to the left.
Authentic bills have microprinting in the security thread as another layer of security. Below is a list of the microprinted phrases on authentic banknotes:
- $5 bill says USA FIVE
- $10 bill says USA TEN
- $40 bill says USA TWENTY
- $50 bill says USA 50
- $100 bill says USA 100
Ultraviolet GlowCounterfeit detection tools and technology use ultraviolet light because this is a clear-cut way of telling if a bill is counterfeit. The security thread on authentic bills glow under ultraviolet light in the following colors:
- $5 bill glows blue
- $10 bill glows orange
- $20 bill glows green
- $50 bill glows yellow
- $100 bill glows red/pink
Red and Blue ThreadsIf you take a close look at an authentic banknote, you can see that there are very small red and blue threads woven into the fabric of the bill. Although counterfeit printers try to replicate this effect by printing a pattern of red and blue threads onto counterfeit bills, if you can see that this printing is merely surface level, then it is likely the bill is counterfeit
Serial NumbersThe last thing to check on a bill is the serial number. The letter that starts a bill’s serial number corresponds to a specific year, so if the letter doesnâ€™t match the year printed on the bill, it is counterfeit. Below is the list of letter–to–year correspondence:
- E = 2004
- G = 2004A
- I = 2006
- J = 2009
- L = 2009A