The Feds released the details on its new $100 bill on April 21, featuring some sophisticated safeguards to stop counterfeiters. But what about all that old-style currency, both legit and fake, still in circulation? How can you tell if someone tries to pass you bogus bills? Flea market and swap meet vendors handle a lot of cash, so they are particularly vulnerable to this danger, for reasons both obvious and less so. Here is some advice from around the Web.
The Secret Service has a mandate to fight counterfeiters, and the agency has tips on how to identify funny money, as well as what to do if you find some. Three good tips from the site:
The genuine portrait appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background. The counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background which is often too dark or mottled.
Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. The serial numbers are printed in the same ink color as the Treasury Seal. The numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned.
The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken. On the counterfeit, the lines in the outer margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct. Genuine currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout.
Other places on the Internet offer more advice on how to spot fakes. Look for paper quality, a security thread, a watermark, and a particular color shift, according to a fellow named Wasatch on eHow.com.
Then there’s the high tech stuff. You can use special UV lights and pens to help identify fakes. Under UV light, legitimate paper money shows colors: The $5 bill should glow blue; the $10, orange; the $20, green; the $50, yellow; and the $100, red, according to this article on wikiHow. And a swipe with a special pen will show light yellow on a true bill, but dark on a fake.
But be careful! Some of these techniques only work on newer bills. An old bill may be legit even if the high tech methods say it’s not. No matter how old it is, though, don’t fall for this $1,000,000 bill trick.
And for those dealing in Canadian currency, here are some tips from a 2006 article on canoe.ca.