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Blog: Be on the Lookout for Counterfeit Bills

Anytime money comes from a place which is thought to be legitimate and it turns out that it has in fact been produced illegally, the person is concluded to have committed the crime of counterfeiting.

Anyone caught passing fake money, even if they are not responsible for making it, will be charged for going against the laws of counterfeiting. This is because the federal government is the one legally responsible for distributing legal tender.

The following irregularities have been reported on counterfeit bills discovered this year:

The one hundred dollar bills have Chinese markings on the front and back with a string of dashes in the top right corner on the front of the bill and in the top left corner on the back of the bill.

The fifty, twenty and ten dollar bills are discolored and the cut of the bills is uneven. The same serial number has been duplicated on several bills as well.

“It’s important to know the marks of real cash,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “It is worth taking the extra few seconds to look for irregularities.”

BBB provides the following tell-tale signs of counterfeit bills:

  1. Color shifting ink

The first thing to do is to look at the bottom right corner and check whether the color shifts when you tilt it. By the “20” on a $20 bill, the color is copper, but when you tilt it, the color changes to green(ish). On the new $100 bills, the color change from copper to green happens on the liberty bell symbol.

  1. Red and blue threads

On an authentic bill, there are threads woven in and out of the note. Most counterfeiters try to achieve this look by printing red and blue threads on the surface of the note. If you look closely at their work, you will see that the threads are on the surface.

3. Watermark

This is usually a copy of the portrait on the note. The watermark can only be seen when you hold the note up against the light. The watermark should be on the right side of the bill and should be an exact replica of the portrait on the note. If there is no watermark when you hold up the note against the light, then it is definitely counterfeited.

4. Security Thread

The security strip runs vertically on the note and can be seen when held up against a light. You won’t find this feature on a counterfeit bill.

Here are some things that businesses should do to protect themselves against counterfeit money:

  • Keep an eye on local news. Counterfeit bills tend to come in spurts. If counterfeit money is showing up in your community, your police department’s Facebook page or local news outlets should spread the news.
  • Report any counterfeits to the police or your local Secret Service field office. This can help authorities track down the source and prevent further damage to your community.
  • Stay alert during busy times. Counterfeiters exploit the frenzy caused by having many customers in a store at once. Businesses and shoppers should pay particular attention during the holiday season and other times when business may be up.

If you are suspicious:

  • Hold a suspicious note against an original
  • Ask for a different bill
  • Prevention for Businesses
    • Make sure staff know where serial numbers and signatures should be
    • Invest in Technology – (watermark lamps, magnetic ink scanners, UV lights)
    • Make sure your business has insurance which covers any loss which arises from receiving counterfeit money.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB at 903-581-5704 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.

About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. There are over 100 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central East Texas, which was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.

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