Identifying Counterfeits: Don’t Fall For These Currency Scams

Identifying Counterfeits: Don’t Fall For These Currency Scams


If you handle a lot of cash, you might be worried about the possibility of someone showing up with a fake bill to pay for goods or services. Fake bills cause a nasty ripple effect in the economy, as they leave the holder in the awkward position of eating the cost of the goods they exchanged for counterfeit money. 

How can you identify counterfeit bills, though? Many people swear by counterfeit detection pens and similar measures. Here are a handful of surefire ways to tell whether you’re dealing with a real Federal Reserve note or a cleverly-made fake.

Do Counterfeit Pens Work?

If you’ve ever used a large bill to pay for something at a major retailer, you might have seen the cashier pick up the bill and use a pen to mark the face. These are called counterfeit pens and they ostensibly will leave a mark on fake bills, while causing no damage to genuine money. However, the Federal Reserve warns that these pens can fail in the face of really good counterfeits. 

Some counterfeiters are savvy enough to create fake bills that pass detection from these pens. If you want a more surefire way to detect whether a bill is real, look for the Federal Reserve’s security features.

Security Features

The Federal Reserve includes a handful of security features in each US bill it prints. The most prominent of these is a watermark that is visible between the layers of each bill. If you hold a bill up to the light, you should be able to detect a watermark that indicates it’s a genuine unit of currency.

Similarly, genuine dollars have red and blue fibers woven throughout their structure. Counterfeiters might try to replicate these threads by drawing or printing them on their fake bills, but close examination will reveal these marks to be on top of the bill, not interwoven into its composition.

Further Confirmation

If you’re dealing with a bill that looks almost right but could be fake, subject it to a more rigorous examination. Put it under a blacklight and see if the security strip in the bill glows. This strip should glow blue on a $5 bill, orange on a $10 bill, green on a $20 bill, yellow on a $50 bill, and pink on a $100 bill. 

These security features should help you sidestep any counterfeiting issues you could encounter. Be careful out there so you don’t get left holding a fake bill!