It’s holiday shopping season, which means big consumer spending. But it also could mean counterfeit cash on the rise. This crime costs Americans $600 billion a year according to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition. As the economy speeds up for the holidays and malls become hectic with Christmas shoppers, the United States Secret Service advices that the passing of fake cash could become an even greater problem.
If you want to avoid getting stuck with a counterfeit bill, the trick is, simply knowing what to look for. These are the best ways to spot counterfeit money:
1. The Portrait - On a real bill, the portrait tends to stand out from the background. However, on a counterfeit bill, the portrait's coloring tends to blend too much with the rest of the bill.
2. The Paper - Real bills have red and blue fibers embedded in the paper.
3. The Serial Numbers – The serial numbers on a note must be the same color as the Treasury Seal. On counterfeit bills, the numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned. One sure way to spot counterfeit bills is if several have the same serial number.
4. Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals - On real currency, you will see Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals that are clear, distinct and sharp, whereas the seals on counterfeit bills may have uneven, blunt, or broken saw-tooth points.
5. The Border - The outside borders on real paper currency are clear and unbroken. The edges on counterfeit bills may be blurred and indistinct.
6. Starch - Many retail employees use an iodine-based counterfeiting pen. The pen reacts to the starch in the paper. If the bill is real, the ink turns yellow. But if the bill is counterfeit, it will turn a dark blue or black.
7. The Feel - The feel is probably the most common way that people detect counterfeit. Real currency has a raised texture. Counterfeit bills feel flat because they are often made digitally.
8. The Watermark -The watermark is the shadow of the portrait that appears when you hold the bill up to light. Sometimes people who attempt to recreate the watermark, but it tends to be of very poor quality.
9. The Embedded Security Thread- The security thread in all bills (excluding $1) after a certain year glows a different color when exposed to UV light.
If you believe you have received a counterfeit bill, the U.S. Treasury advises you to do the following:
• Do not put yourself in danger.
• Do not return the bill to the passer.
• Delay the passer with some excuse, if possible.
• Observe the passer's description - and their companions' descriptions - and write down their vehicle license plate numbers if you can.
• Contact your local Law Enforcement OR call your local U.S. Secret Service Office.
• Write your initials and date in the white border area of the suspected counterfeit note.
• DO NOT handle the counterfeit note any more than necessary. Place it inside a protective cover, a plastic bag, or envelope to protect it until you place it in the hands of an IDENTIFIED Secret Service Agent or Law Enforcement Officer.
• Surrender the note or coin ONLY to a properly identified Law Enforcement Officer or mail it to your nearest U.S. Secret Service field office.
Please Note: There is no financial remuneration for the return of the counterfeit bill, but it is doing the "right thing" to help combat counterfeiting.
For more information, please visit https://uscurrency.gov/ or https://www.treasury.gov/