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Detailed Guide on Counterfeit Detection


Counterfeit money is a booming industry and thanks to high-resolution printers and improvements in technology, counterfeit money is becoming more difficult to identify. Counterfeit money costs businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue. If properly trained, and if the right equipment is used, counterfeit money losses can be dramatically cut. This guide will go into intricate detail on what you should look out for in counterfeit money.

One common method used to trick some counterfeit detectors is money bleaching. This involves bleaching a $5 and re-printing it with another dollar value, such as a $50 or $100. As a result of this counterfeiting method, the watermark of Lincoln (on a $5) shows up rather than the correct president. This is an example of a $100 printed on a $5. You should see Benjamin Franklin in the watermark, but instead see President Abraham Licoln:

Fake $5 Bill













While this method may trick a few people, this is still easily identifiable to the trained eye.

Although many counterfeiters are capable of printing convincing fakes, the use of a magnifying glass will often give this away. Here is an example of how the ink may appear on a counterfeit bill versus a genuine bill:

Characteristics of Counterfeit Bills







































Listed here are the most common counterfeit detection methods used today. Many of our bill counters utilize some or all of these techniques. We highly recommend learning the characteristics of $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. One-dollar and $5 bills are not usually counterfeited due to their low value. Here is a list of the characteristics found in several older and modern 2004 series bills.

U.S. Currency Characteristics:


$10 Bill (click to see characteristics)
$20 Bill (click to see characteristics)
$50 Bill (click to see characteristics)
$100 Bill (click to see characteristics)

Best Counterfeit Detection Measures:


Counterfeit Detection Pens

One of the most common counterfeit detection measures is the counterfeit detection pen. Real money is printed on paper made from cotton fibers. Regular wood-based paper contains a variety of starches. These pens utilize an iodine chemical solution that reacts with this starch. If starch is in the paper, discoloration will occur. The iodine will be clear or slightly yellow if put in contact with real currency. Although this method will weed out many counterfeits, it will not work with bleached bills.

Magnifying Glass

Legitimate bills have microprinting in them. Microprinting is tiny text that typically appears as a line, but under a magnifying glass can be seen and deciphered. Microprinting is extremely difficult to duplicate. Most counterfeit bills will not contain any microprinting. Microprinting can be found in different areas, depending on the denomination.

This is an example of microprinting:

Example of microprinting on U.S. currencies.





















Watermark Detection

Legitimate U.S. currency will contain a watermark. This watermark will be a replicate image of the individual's face found on the bill itself. Be sure the watermark and the bills picture are the same. As mentioned earlier, a watermark of President Abraham Lincoln on a $50 or $100 will be fake. Watermarks can be seen by holding the bill up in front of a light.

This is an example of a legitimate watermark:

Example of a watermark found in U.S. bills













Inscribed Security Threads

All modern U.S. bills will contain a security thread. This thread will repeat the denomination of the bill. The strip itself is very thin and runs vertically down the bill. Be sure the security thread indicates the correct denomination. Here is an example of what the security thread may look like:

Example of an inscribed security thread found in U.S. money




















UV Detection

All legitimate U.S. currency contains UV properties. This means when a legitimate bill is placed under a UV light, a vertical line will light up.

UV detection properties of U.S. bills












This line is located in different places on different denominations of bills. This feature cannot be duplicated. Bleached $5 and re-printed U.S. bills will contain this feature, but it will be in the wrong place. You can find the locations of all UV stripes on all U.S. denominations by clicking here:

Magnetic Ink

Legitimate US currency uses magnetic ink. This ink can be scanned by many counterfeit bill detectors. If you have a magnetic ink scanner (MG), a good place to scan the bill is on the Treasury Seal. This is what the Treasury Seal looks like:

Picture of the Treasury Seal found on U.S. banknotes






When researching and looking for a bill counter, We would highly recommend that you get a machine capable of scanning and detecting several anti-counterfeiting measures found in legitimate US currency. This will dramatically cut down on counterfeit money and will save your business some serious cash.

Still have questions? Feel free to call us at 1-800-658-8788 to speak with one of our counterfeit money detector specialists.You can find our entire selection of counterfeit bill detectors here.


800-658-8788 Or: 866-380-9222

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Fax Number: 801.927.3037

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