15 Nov 2013

How to Identify a Counterfeit US Bill

US MoneyHow many times have you looked at your bank account with disappointment, and wished that you had a way to make money appear out of nowhere? Sadly this just isn’t possible, yet it certainly doesn’t stop people from trying. The United States Department of Treasury recently released numbers stating that an estimated 70 million counterfeit dollars are currently in circulation.

You could very well have a wallet full of fake cash and not even know it—until reading our guide to identifying counterfeit US bills, that is.


The easiest way to identify a counterfeit, is to compare the suspected fake side by side with an authentic bill. Keep in mind that bills do change in appearance over the years, so try to make sure that the dates on both of them are identical, or at least within a few years of each other.


Cashiers, servers, bankers, and anyone who handles money all day are usually able to identify a low quality counterfeit bill before even looking at it. Even if you don’t fall into this category, it’s easy to pinpoint fakes by texture if you remember that official bank notes are printed on unique paper with raised ink. This formula is completely confidential, and impossible to replicate.


It’s not that hard to make a counterfeit bill that looks half decent from afar, but up close it’s difficult to replicate all of the tiny details meant to improve security. Thinks to keep an eye out for include blurry borders, the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals (they won’t be as defined as they are on genuine bills), and unclear portraits.

Serial Number

Fake bills will often have odd security numbers, both in terms of the printing style and the actual digits. For instance, numbers may be more spaced out or larger than normal, or the sequence itself may be strange, with multiple repeated digits or odd patterns. What’s more, if two bills have identical security numbers, there’s no doubt about it—at least one of them is fake.

Security Features

The easiest way to identify a fake bill is if it’s missing any of these security features:

  • Coloured security thread that glows under black light
  • Colour shifting ink (in all denominations but $1 and $5)
  • Micro-printing on security thread and around portraits
  • Visible watermarks when bill is held up to light (in all bills except $1 after 1999)

When it comes down to it, although counterfeiting technology is becoming more advanced every day, it’s still next to impossible to accurately replicate the high-tech and completely confidential printing processes of the actual US mint. And, if in doubt? Head down to your local bank, and get a second opinion!

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1 Comment
  • Posted on Nov 15 | 2013 By Allan Barkin

    What about CDN currency? With new plastic bills, does that eliminate counterfeit bills? I guess we still have to worry about old style bills.

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