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Feature Photo: Tracy O Photo: sushi ina

Ever wondered if that precious cash you’re holding is fake?
1. Does It Feel Right?

Thought you learned nothing when handling cash as a restaurant waiter/waitress or cleaned golf clubs at a country club like myself? You’re wrong. The experience of continuously exercising the sense of touch over and over again has taught us what to expect when handling paper currency. The printed paper should feel crisp due to embedded fibers and shouldn’t be floppy.

2. Watermarks

Ever hold a banknote up to the light and notice a faint design? Most forms of paper currency have a watermark when held to the light that will display a picture or denomination numeral.

3. Micro-text and Magnifying Glass

The micro-text of a counterfeit banknote will show signs of being smudged due to the fact that most printers cannot produce the small font. If you were to take a magnify glass to a genuine 2007 Series $5 United States banknote you will notice the micro-text phrase “five dollars” throughout the border edges. A counterfeit version of this banknote might show the text to be smeared instead of being crisp.

4. Print & Ink Quality

This feature might be a bit tougher to spot for the untrained eye. The print quality will be very inferior when compared against a genuine banknote. The ink on most banknotes will appear metallic and shift colors when tilted. There could be the possibility of having a counterfeit banknote if the print and ink appear to be blurred but also could be from normal wear-and-tear.

5. Ultraviolet Light

Ultraviolet lights have a few more uses other than examining sketchy hotel bed linens. Many governments have incorporated this security feature within their paper currency. The passing of an ultraviolet light over a genuine 2007 Series $50 Barbadian banknote will reveal that the security thread glows blue while the text glows yellow. In addition, the waves near the flying fish in the center and the Coat of Arms florescence green and yellow.

6. Raised Notes

This is the common counterfeit method of gluing numerals from higher denominations notes to the corner of actual lower denominations currency. The best ways to spot this illegal practice is to compare the numeral denomination to the written denomination.

Still can’t tell? Compare the details (e.g., borders and portraits) near the numerals of a genuine note of the same value to help verify consistency.

7. Foil Holograms

Photo stitch

There are various other features hidden in paper currency to deter potential counterfeiters. When a 2002 Series $100 Euro banknote is tilted, an architectural image and denomination value will appear on a foil hologram. This security feature is usually found on higher denominations to halt criminals from bleaching low denomination banknotes with the goal of reprinting a higher denomination.

8. Anti-Copying Pantographs

This feature appears to be very plain and unassuming to many. In fact it provides a decent layer of protection. This anti-copying security will be activated depending on the method used to counterfeit the note, such as placing it on a scanner. This causes an obvious disturbance within the once unassuming area by producing patterns or words. It shouldn’t be hard to miss the word “Void” when triggered.

9. Chemical Sensitivity

Banknote paper is sensitized to a myriad of common chemical agents used by forgers. Use of acids, solvents or alcohol will cause noticeable stains to instantly appear. Don’t get these noticeable stains confused with typical wear-and-tear or coffee stains.

The possibility of having a counterfeit banknote is usually low as most government’s do a decent job at removing them from circulation. The United States Secret Service, whom are responsible for anti-counterfeiting investigations, has noted that less than 1% of the United States banknotes are counterfeit. This statistic can vary from country to country based on the security features within a banknote and the effort of the local government to remove illegal tender from circulation.

Travel Safety


About The Author

Bryan Cassidy

Bryan is the founder of Connecticut Beer and Wine, which covers Connecticut brewery and winery news, events, limited releases, beer & wine reviews, food pairings, and detailed profiles of Connecticut’s breweries and wineries.

  • riscphree

    I’ve worked in a situation handling money before and the biggest thing is it’s texture.

    You’ll know right away 99% of all counterfeit bills don’t fell the same as legit bills.

  • B. Cassidy

    If you ever get bored or are planning to spend some time in another country, it doesn’t hurt to pick up banknotes and learn some stuff about them like I discussed in the article. Just check out a $5.00 USD and you’ll see some fun features like the word “five” written all over the border.

  • eileen

    These tips are handy, so thanks!

    Strangely, a very often-counterfeited bill here in Chile is the two-thousand peso bill (worth less than four dollars). It’s the first of the plasticky bills (others will follow) and it has print in a clear area on the bill, which is hard to duplicate, and the ink disappears along the half-way crease that bills get from being in people’s wallets.

    Anyone else have any country-specific tips?

  • Hal Amen

    I’m amazed how ubiquitous the “watermark check” is here in Argentina. Happens on every bill above 20 pesos, every time, everywhere. Must be a serious problem.

  • Jeff Brandt

    Buenos Aires alert:

    Be extra careful in taxis. There is a lot of bad money in BA. They you copy machines so it is easy to see but you have to be aware.

    Jeff Brandt your travel partner for the iPhone

  • Jeff Brandt


    Do not take USD that is worn. Many vendors including hotels will not take.

    Jeff Brandt your travel partner for the iPhone

  • Pingback: Spotting Counterfeit Cash and Balancing Keywords | Tourfolio

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