Video on How to Spot Counterfeits

by Philip Brewer on 24 August 2010 4 comments
Photo: US Treasury

As part of introducing the new $100 bill that'll come out in February, the US Treasury is producing a video podcast. The current episode is on spotting counterfeit notes.

The previous video in the series looked in particular at the new features that are unique to the new $100 bill. This video looks at the features that are common to all the bills, so it provides a good overview on using the security features to spot counterfeits of US money.

It used to be kind of tricky to spot counterfeits — you needed to look very closely at the printing, looking for whether the fine lines were smooth and even, whether the points were crisp and sharp. Now, with the new security features, it's pretty easy. Here's how to do it:

You can find the ongoing podcast series at the Treasury's new money site.

You might also be interested in my post on How to Spot Counterfeit Money and my post on the New $100 Bill.

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GeorgeP

Now all we have to do is way until they get the old bills out of the market... I guess it's going to take a while to do that.

Philip Brewer's picture

The not-so-old bills (any with the larger, off-center portrait) are adequately secure: They have the color-shifting ink (except the $5), the watermark, the security thread, and the micro-printing. Really, the only thing they're missing is the color (which isn't really a security feature, just one more thing that the counterfeiters need get right, making their job that little bit harder).

Personally, for the really old bills with the centered portrait (pre-1996 for the $100, pre-2000 for the $5 and $10), I'm okay with declining to take them right now. For the smaller denominations it probably doesn't matter, but a pre-1996 $100 or pre-1997 $50 has too high of a chance of being counterfeit.

It is, by the way, perfectly okay to refuse to take a bill that seems at all iffy. Some people misunderstand the "legal tender for all debts public and private" to mean that you can't refuse currency, but you can always refuse currency that you think might be counterfeit.

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Guest

This seems to be a popular story. Just saw this covered elsewhere. Counterfeiting is a very real threat that not many of us (myself included) think about. The easiest way I've seen so far is using a counterfeit pen.

Philip Brewer's picture

As it says in the video, it's pretty easy to defeat the pen. The pens use an iodine solution that stains ordinary pulp-based paper. But all the counterfeiter needs to do is use rag paper.