Eight Ways to Spot Counterfeit Money

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1. Portrait
The portraits on counterfeit money can sometimes look different from the portraits on real bills. 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. In addition, the portrait tends to look “lifeless and flat” on counterfeit bills, according to the Secret Service. Both DeSantis and Lowery pointed out that this difference is due to the different printing processes between real and counterfeit money. They noted that real currency uses printing methods that cannot be replicated by anyone else.

2. Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals
A real dollar bill will have Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals that are “clear, distinct and sharp,” according to the Secret Service. The agency points out that the seals on a counterfeit bill “may have uneven, blunt, or broken saw-tooth points.” One way to detect a counterfeit is by looking at the coloring. If the color of the Treasury Seal does not match the color of the serial number, the bill is fake.

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3. The Border
The outside border on real paper currency are “clear and unbroken,” according to the Secret Service. However, the agency notes the edges on a counterfeit bill can be “blurred and indistinct.” Because of the difference in printing methods between genuine and counterfeit bills, the border ink can sometimes bleed on a phony. However, he added this was n0t among the most common way to detect counterfeit.

4. Serial Numbers
Looking at the serial numbers is another way to detect counterfeit money. The Secret Service points out that the serial numbers on a note must be the same color as the Treasury Seal. The agency also notes that the numbers on counterfeit bills “may not be uniformly spaced or aligned,” although Kersten believes these counterfeit identifying marks are rare. One sure way, however, to spot counterfeit bills is if several bills have the same serial number. “Face it, if you are running off thousands of those things, you aren’t going to bother changing the serial numbers,” he said.