Do you know how to spot counterfeit money?


The U.S. Secret Service is responsible for investigating counterfeiting operations but as a matter of policy, they do not comment on the number of phony bills believed to be in circulation in specific cases. Businesses must be pro-active in protecting themselves from being victims of this type of fraud.

Many businesses use special pens to detect counterfeit currency, however the pens cannot give a definitive confirmation about suspected altered currency, and are not sanctioned by the US Treasury. Merchants who suspect they have given counterfeit money can turn to banks for help. Banks work closely with government investigators, use technology that with a good deal of certainty can identify if paper currency has been altered and reports cases of counterfeit money to the Secret Service.

The Secret Service says there are a number of ways to detect counterfeit money:

    • Hold a bill up to light and look for a holograph of the face image on the bill. Both images should match. If the $100 bill has been bleached, the hologram will display an image of Abraham Lincoln who appears on $5 bills, instead of Benjamin Franklin.

    • Looking at the bill through a light also will reveal a thin vertical strip containing text that spells out the bill’s denomination.

The Secret Service has a Web site, that explains security features used in U.S. currency to help merchants and the public identify counterfeit money. This information can be accessed through a link under “Investigations,” in a section called “Know Your Money.”

Additional information is posted on the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Web site:

Unfortunately, if someone slipped you a counterfeit bill, you cannot recoup your money. Businesses however, may claim losses due to counterfeit money as an income tax deduction.