How to Detect Counterfeit US Money

Detecting counterfeit U.S. currency requires a combination of vigilance, knowledge of security features, and the use of specialized tools. The U.S. government regularly updates security features on its currency to stay ahead of counterfeiters. Here are some general tips on how to detect counterfeit U.S. money:

Feel the Paper:

Genuine U.S. currency is printed on a special blend of cotton and linen fibers, giving it a distinct feel. Counterfeit bills may feel different or have a smoother texture.

Look for Security Features:

Familiarize yourself with the security features on different denominations. These may include watermarks, security threads, color-shifting ink, and more.

Hold the bill up to the light to check for a watermark portrait of the person depicted on the bill.

Look for the security thread running vertically and embedded in the paper. The thread should be visible from both sides of the bill.

Check the Color-Shifting Ink:

On some denominations (like the $100 bill), the color of the numeral in the lower right corner will shift from green to black or copper when the bill is tilted.

Examine Microprinting:

Genuine bills have tiny text that is difficult for counterfeiters to replicate. Check for microprinting in various areas of the bill, such as around the portrait and on the security thread.

Inspect the Holographic Features:

Some newer bills have holographic images that change when you tilt the bill. For example, the new $100 bill has a holographic bell in the inkwell.

Use a UV Light:

Counterfeit detection pens are commonly used, but they are not foolproof. Instead, use a UV light to check for security features that are only visible under ultraviolet light, such as colored threads and strips.

Be Wary of Large Denominations:

Counterfeiters often target larger denominations, such as $100 bills. Be extra cautious when handling large bills.

Compare to a Known Genuine Bill:

Keep a known genuine bill on hand for comparison. This can help you quickly identify discrepancies.

Be Skeptical of Damaged Bills:

Counterfeiters may use damaged or older bills to try to pass off their fakes. Be extra vigilant when examining bills that are torn, worn, or in poor condition.

Trust Your Instincts:

If a bill looks or feels suspicious, take extra precautions. Don't be afraid to refuse a bill if you have doubts.

If you suspect a bill is counterfeit, it's essential to contact law enforcement and provide them with all relevant information. Note that laws regarding the possession of counterfeit money vary by jurisdiction, so it's crucial to cooperate with local authorities.

When you hand in a counterfeit note, you must fill out the Department of Homeland Security’s Counterfeit Note Report. Find the form here. 

Click  Department of Homeland Security’s Counterfeit Note Report

Once a note is handed in with this form, it is considered counterfeit unless proven otherwise.

Fill out 1 form for each suspected banknote.

This form is geared towards banks who catch counterfeit money, but individuals should use it as well. If you found the counterfeit bill at a bank and you are an employee of the bank, contact your manager and fill out this form regarding your employer.

Give the banknote to authorities. Surrender the note or coin only to a properly identified police officer or a U.S. Secret Service special agent. When asked, relay as much information as possible about the passer, accomplices, or any other information you remember about receiving the counterfeit money.

You will not be financially reimbursed for handing in counterfeit money. This is to prevent individuals from receiving money for free, just because they counterfeited money.

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