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Not So Funny Money: Eight Ways You Can Help Defeat Counterfeit Currency

Tuesday, 22 January 2002 12:00 AM

Do you really know for sure?

Ever since people started to produce money, counterfeiting has been a major problem. In fact, during the Civil War, it was estimated that about one-third of all currency in circulation was fraudulent. Even in 2002, bogus bucks still plague our economy -- everything from super high-tech overseas operations, to the "casual counterfeiter” using the office copy machine -- millions of dollars of phony dollars are in circulation.

So what can you do to make the job of a counterfeiter tougher?

Here are some techniques, suggested by the U.S. Secret Service, to help you determine whether that U.S. currency you were just handed is real or not.

1. First of all, if you deal with currency on a regular basis, you should carefully examine the money you handle for authenticity. The more familiar you are with currency, the better you can help guard against counterfeiters. One of the best ways to do this is to compare a suspect note with a genuine note of the same denomination and series. Quick security tip:

2. Start with the bill’s portrait. A genuine portrait appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the fine screen-like background.

3. On an authentic bill, the "sawtooth” points of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are distinct, sharp and clear. Quick security tip: many counterfeit seals have blunt, broken or uneven "sawtooth” points.

4. True serial numbers have a distinctive style, are evenly spaced and are printed in the same ink color as the Treasury seal. Quick security tip: on counterfeit dollars, the serial numbers may differ in color or shade of ink from the Treasury seal -- and the serial numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned.

5. Please note that the fine lines of the border of real currency are clear and unbroken. Quick security tip: many counterfeit bills have lines in the outer margin and scrollwork that may be blurred and indistinct.

6. Genuine currency is printed on paper which has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Many times, counterfeiters will try to simulate these fibers by printing small red and blue lines on their paper. However, if you look closely, you will observe that on a counterfeit note, the red and blue lines are printed on the surface -- not embedded in the paper.

7. Starting in 1996, the U.S. has been issuing new bills with enhanced security features. Look for the following added safeguards in these new style notes:

A. Color-shifting ink -- tilt the front of the note back and forth to see the color on the numeral on the lower right corner change from a distinct green to black, and back again. Quick security tip: the new $5 bill does not have color shifting ink.

B. Watermark -- just hold the bill up to a light to see the watermark in the blank space to the right of the portrait. Quick security tip: the watermark can be seen from both the front and back of the note.

C. Security thread -- look for a thin strip running from top to bottom. It is only visible when you hold the bill up to a light. Did you know that this thread will glow a specific color depending on its denomination when placed under ultraviolet light? Well, it’s true!

D. Fine line printing patterns -- carefully examine the very fine lines behind the portrait and the fine lines behind the building on the back of the bill. The lines on both sides are clear -- not splotchy, uneven or composed of dots.

E. Microprinting -- also take a close look, under a magnifier, to see very small printed words. This feature will help to prevent counterfeiting by using an office copier machine.

8. What do you do if you suspect a counterfeit note?

A. Do not put yourself at risk.

B. Do not return the note to the passer.

C. Delay the passer by some excuse, if possible, without risking harm.

D. Observe and record the passer’s appearance and that of any companion.

E. Note the license plate number and make of the passer’s car.

F. Telephone the police or the U.S. Secret Service.

G. Write your initials and date on an unprinted portion of the suspect bill.

H. Do not handle the note more than necessary.

I. Place the note in a protective envelope.

J. Surrender the bill only to a properly identified police officer or a representative of the U.S. Secret Service

A final thought -- please remember that you are the first line of defense against counterfeiting! By all Americans being aware and carefully examining our currency, we can do our part by discouraging criminals from attempting to pass these fake notes. For complete details on counterfeit money, just contact your local bank or U.S. Secret Service office.

Bruce is a nationally known security specialist, as well as a highly decorated reserve Law Enforcement Officer. Bruce also writes a column for the trade publication Security Magazine.

This column is for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.

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Do you really know for sure? Ever since people started to produce money, counterfeiting has been a major problem.In fact, during the Civil War, it was estimated that about one-third of all currency in circulation was fraudulent.Even in 2002, bogus bucks still plague...
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Tuesday, 22 January 2002 12:00 AM
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