How To Spot A Counterfeit Bill
Learning how to spot a counterfeit bill is an important skill that can help prevent any possible losses that come with receiving fake money. Just as technology evolves, United States currency changes from time to time to add security measures to help prevent counterfeiting. Despite the many security features, counterfeit bills still exist, making knowing how to spot a counterfeit bill quite useful.
Examine the portrait. Each bill has a portrait of a prominent United States president (or in the case of Benjamin Franklin, citizen): George Washington on the dollar, Thomas Jefferson on the two, Abraham Lincoln on the five, Alexander Hamilton on the ten, Andrew Jackson on the twenty, Ulysses S. Grant on the fifty and Benjamin Franklin on the hundred. As each bill is printed with a high-quality digital printer, the portrait should be crisp and clear. Signs of a counterfeit bill include a dull or blurry portrait.
Take note of the details. Just as the portrait should be crisp and clear, each part of the bill should be the same. Look over the bill thoroughly to see if there are any areas that are blurry, including the border, treasury seals and the image on the back of the bill. Areas that are blurry, flat or overly dark are signs of a counterfeit bill.
- Feel the paper. As U.S. currency is printed on a special paper, it has a different feel than standard white paper. Similarly, the paper contains small red and blue threads. Counterfeit notes may also have these threads, but they are printed on the paper rather than embedded within.
- Look at the serial numbers and treasury seal. To track each bill, a unique serial number is printed twice on the face of the bill. This number is always printed in green, using the same color ink as the green U.S. Treasury seal in the center of the right portion of the bill. Legal bills will feature the same ink for the seal and serial numbers, as well as the serial numbers equally spaced and horizontally aligned. If the ink between the seal and serial number differs or the numbers are not aligned properly, this is a sign of a counterfeit bill.
Check the color-shifting ink. Any bill over a five will feature a number, the same as the amount of the bill, in color-shifting ink in the lower right corner. Move the bill back and forth to make sure this number changes color, generally black to green or green to gold. As this is one advanced security feature of modern currency, counterfeit bills rarely have color-shifting ink.
- Find the security thread and watermark. In another advanced security feature, each bill over two dollars features a security thread embedded within the bill and a watermark on the right side of the face. Both of these features are only visible when held up to the light. Take the bill and hold it up to the light to locate the security thread, running parallel to the smaller end of the bill and featuring the bill's denomination. Also locate the watermark, a hidden or ghost portrait that is the same as the president on the bill. If a bill is missing the watermark or security thread, it may be fake.