About Counterfeit Money. Learn about its history, evolution, and prevention.

About Counterfeit Money. Learn about its history, evolution, and prevention.

When did counterfeiting begin?

Counterfeiting is an art as old as time, so much so that it's known as the second oldest profession. In 400 BC, the Greeks had official coin testers to weigh coins and ensure that the metals were genuine. Later, when paper money was created using wood from mulberry trees, the Chinese would protect the mulberry forests with guards, so no one could access the same wood used in bills.
In 1790, US lawmakers passed anti-counterfeiting laws and introduced new legislation. But counterfeiting since has become much more sophisticated.
To deter counterfeiters, nations around the globe continuously add design elements and incorporate new materials into their banknotes. Today, US Currency is made with several key security features both visible and invisible to the naked eye. Despite this, domestic and international counterfeiters have found ways to fool the average user into believing in the authenticity of bills.


How to detect a counterfeit bill

All bills are designed with multiple security features to deter counterfeiters. These features can include micro printing, blended paper, watermarks, magnetic ink, color-shifting ink, specific bill dimensions, and security ribbons, among others. Learning for yourself or training employees to identify a counterfeit bill is a lengthy process and could lead to human error. Commonly, people rely on detecting counterfeit currency using UV light and counterfeit pens, but these methods alone do not alert users about well-produced fake bills like the super dollar or bleached bill. 

Learn why counterfeit pens are not reliable.


Ways to identify fake bills:

1. Paper Blend

Authentic bills are printed on a patented, special blend of paper made of 25% linen and 75% cotton and are almost impossible to replicate. Looking at the bill carefully and closely will allow the user to see red and blue thread woven into the paper.

2. Ultraviolet Colors & Security Thread

The Security Thread is a clear thin strip, embedded on the front of the bills. Each one has the security thread located in a different spot which is why - to help users validate its correct placement - we have designed some of our manual units to include rulers or removable USD guides. 

Bill’s Security Thread have specific colors that glow under ultraviolet light. 

What colors should you see under UV lights?

$5 bill: blue
$10 bill: orange
$20 bill: green
$50 bill: yellow
$100 bill: pink/red

3. 3-D Security Ribbon

The US $100 bill is the most commonly counterfeited bill in circulation. For this reason, the US Federal Reserve issued a new $100 bill in 2013 with a blue 3-D Security Ribbon on the front. As you tilt the note, the images of the bells and 100s “dance” making this a challenging feature to forge.

4. Magnetic Ink

Credit cards, checks, and US Bills are all printed with magnetic ink. The simplest way to detect if your bill has magnetic ink is by using counterfeit detectors - which determine this automatically - or by using manual validators that require the user to rub the bill or other document across a magnetic head.

5. Color-Shifting Ink

Color-Shifting Ink, also known as Optically Variable Ink (OVI), is one of the easiest features to check. By moving the bill at different angles against the light, this feature allows users to see the ink on the numbers at the bottom right-side of the bill change from copper to green. 

6. Printing Quality

Bills are printed with state-of-the-art, precise techniques that minimize flaws and that most counterfeiters cannot replicate. Carefully looking at the microprinting and general quality of the piece with a loupe or magnifying glass will help users recognize fake bills if blurry lines or illegible micro-printing is found.

7. Textured Printing

Real bills have raised printing, giving bills a texture identifiable by touch. US Bills are not paper-smooth, so feeling the bill should allow users to identify its authenticity. 

8. Watermarks

Verifying the watermark is well-known and one of the most checked security features of banknotes. For denominations $10 or higher, looking at the right side of the bill against the light will allow users to verify that the watermark matches the face shown on the bill.

9. Serial Numbers

Serial numbers are not printed at random. The first letter on the bill corresponds to the year the bill was printed. Double check the bill’s serial number with the year printed on your bill. Making sure you match the year the bill was printed to the correct letter is an unequivocal way to identify a fake bill.

Below is a series year to prefix relationship table:






































How to correctly check bills

Fortunately, there are tools available online to help with basic training to get up and running quickly and easily. For USD, the U.S. Currency Education Program has online resources to help with learning the differences between real and fake bills. Also, you can rely on AccuBANKER’s technology to minimize human error and speed up the process.

Click here and discover your perfect solution in counterfeit detection.


Why should you purchase a counterfeit detector?

Since there are multiple methods to detect counterfeit bills, using a combination or several is the most reliable. If you are comfortable with having a machine that is pre-programmed for USD, you will be satisfied with your purchase of one of our many automatic detectors that combine up to 8 methods of counterfeit detection. Instead, if you are looking for a unit that can analyze multiple different currencies and documents, you will want to invest in a counterfeit validator which are equipped with tools to support your manual counterfeit detection.

Learn more about the differences between Counterfeit Detectors and Counterfeit Validators here.


How do counterfeit bill detectors work?

AccuBANKER’s counterfeit detectors, are automatic units equipped with up to 8 possible counterfeit detection methods to protect you from accepting fake money. With the possibility to scan up to all 8 (UV, WM, MG, MT, IR, DD, IMG, and CS) at once and in under a second, these hi-tech units are designed with multiple sensors and a variation of lights to detect the slightest imperfections in all security features while alerting the user with easy-to-understand audiovisual notifications. Designed for large retailers, banks, and businesses all around the world, you can trust our technology to prevent losses due to fake and counterfeit bills.


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