UPDATED INFORMATION: April 26, 2011
The Baxter County Sheriff's Office has taken another incident report of counterfeit bills being passed in this area, as well as a communication by email stating the same thing. This latest report stated that fake $10 bills were presented for payment of merchandise at a convenience store in Baxter County on April 23rd.
In a continuing effort to help businesses and people avoid becoming victims of these counterfeit bills, the Sheriff's Office is again offering the following tips (originally published December 1, 2010) to help detect counterfeit currency. Shoppers should be patient while cashiers and store employees take extra precautions before accepting questionable currency.
1. Feel the texture of the bill. Most people who handle money a lot (e.g. cashiers) can identify a lower-quality fake bill instantly just by touching it. You may not have that much experience, but just about everybody has handled enough money that they can detect many counterfeits simply by feeling the texture--and paying attention (the paper bank notes are printed on is not sold commercially, furthermore the composition of the paper and ink is confidential). Genuine currency has slightly raised ink that's produced in the intaglio printing process. You should be able to feel the texture of this ink, especially if you're handling a crisp, new bill.
2. Compare the bill with another of the same denomination and series. If the bill feels all right, or if you're a little suspicious but unsure, hold the bill side-by-side with another bill. Different denominations, obviously, look different, so get a note of the same amount. Also, all denominations except the $1 and $2 bills have been redesigned at least once since 1990, so it's best to compare the suspect bill to one in the same series (date).
3. Look carefully at the printing quality. Real U.S. bills are printed using techniques that regular offset printing and digital printing (the most popular tools for all but the most sophisticated counterfeiters) cannot replicate. Look for blurry areas, especially in fine details such as around the borders--real bills have clear, unbroken borders--and on the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals, where the sawtooth points should be sharp and well-defined in genuine bills. Portraits in fake bills may appear dull, blurred, and flat, while in real currency the portraits are sharp and contain very fine detailing.
4. Look for colored strands in the paper. All U.S. bills have tiny red and blue fibers embedded in the paper. Counterfeiters sometimes try to reproduce these by printing these strands onto the paper, but if you look closely, you'll see that they are printed on, rather than being part of the paper itself.
5. Hold it up to the light and look at the watermark. The watermark portrait should match the printed one (this is very important: bleaching & reprinting low value currency is a common scam). The newer five-dollar bill has a "5" watermark instead of Lincoln. One-dollar bills have no watermarks, so that's different.
6. Examine the serial numbers. Make sure the serial numbers on a bill match, and look at them carefully. Fake bills may have serial numbers that are not evenly spaced or that not perfectly aligned in a row. If you received more than one suspicious bill, see if the serial numbers are the same on both bills--that's a dead giveaway you've got a couple counterfeits.
7. Look for special security features in all denominations except $1 and $2 bills. The easiest way to spot a fake $5, $10, $20, $50 or $100 bill is to look for the following security features, all of which are very difficult to convincingly fake.
Look for a security thread (a plastic strip) running from top to bottom. Beginning in 1990, an embedded (not printed) security thread was added to all bills except the $1 and $2 bills. If you hold the bill up to the light you easily see the strip and printing on it. The printing will say "USA" followed by the denomination of the bill, which is spelled out for $5, $10, and $20 bills but presented in numerals on the $50 and $100 bills. These threads are placed in different places on each denomination to prevent lower-denomination bills being bleached and reprinted as higher denominations. Compare a genuine bill of the same denomination to make sure the position of the thread is correct.
A. Hold the bill up to a light to check for a watermark. A watermark bearing the image of the person whose portrait is on the bill can be found on all $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills series 1996 and later, and on $5 bills series 1999 and later. The watermark is embedded in the paper to the right of the portrait, and it can be seen from both sides of the bill.
B. Tilt the bill to examine the color-shifting ink. Color-shifting ink (ink which appears to change color when the bill is tilted) was added to the $50 and $100 bills in 1996, the $20 bill in 1998, and the $10 in 1999; $5 and lower bills do not yet have this feature. The color originally appeared to change from black to green, but it goes from copper to green in recent redesigns of the bills.
C. Use a magnifying glass to examine microprinting. Beginning in 1990, very tiny printing was added to certain places (which have periodically been changed since then) on $5 and higher denomination bills. The exact location of the microprinting is not generally an issue. Rather, counterfeits will often have either no microprinting or very blurred microprinting. On a genuine bill, the microprinting will be crisp and clear.
The $5 bill has "USA FIVE" written on the thread, the $10 bill has "USA TEN" written on the thread; the $20 bill has "USA TWENTY" written on the security thread; the $50 bill has "USA 50" written on the thread; and the $100 bill has the words "USA 100" written on the security thread. Microprinting can be found around the portrait as well as on the security threads.
- Hold the bill up to a black light. If authentic, the Security Strip in the bills will glow: $5 bill glows blue; the $10 bill glows orange, the $20 bill glows green, the $50 bill glows yellow, and the $100 bill glows red.
- Run your finger nail over the "vest" of the bill, you should feel distinctive ridges, printers are not able to reproduce this ridge effect of a press.
While only about 1/100th of 1% of paper currency in circulation is counterfeit, anytime it is known that counterfeit bills are being passed in the area, businesses and individuals should take precautions and examine currency carefully before accepting it for payment.
/s/ John F. Montgomery,
Baxter County Sheriff