Best Way to Spot Counterfeit Money and Know Its Fake Currency

How can you tell if the money someone gave you is fake or real? Many unsuspecting people receive counterfeit currency from customers without knowing it until they want to spend it. Yea, it can be frustrating to discover that you have received fake money for a job/service you took your time to deliver. We have to stop these thieves by spotting counterfeit money immediately we see it. But how do you detect Counterfeit money in US dollar or local currency in your country? Now, check the bills in your wallet/pocket with these methods I will show you. Its the 8 Ways to Spot Counterfeit Money and Know Its Fake Currency.

How can you tell the difference between real and fake money? Its simple; if you hold the bill toward the light and there’s no watermark or if you can see the watermark even without holding it up toward the light, then the bill you’re holding is probably a counterfeit.

Although cash is not as popular as it used to be, but that has not in any way put counterfeiters out of business. A 2022 survey cited in a recent Federal Reserve report shows that U.S. consumers use cash for only 19% of their daily transactions. It however, is harder to find actual statistics showing how much cash is counterfeit. Quite often, the number bandied about around the internet is $70 million, but that is according to a 2006 report from the United States Treasury Department.

Still, it is very common to hear local news stories about counterfeit money. For instance, earlier this year, a Home Depot worker was arrested for stealing $387,500 from the company for over four years, by replacing real money with counterfeits.

If you want to know more about how to spot fake money, let’s take a closer look at how you should be looking at your cash.

1. Evaluate the Feel of the Paper

Make sure you pay attention to:

  • The texture.
  • A crispness that should be there.
  • Slightly raised ink.

This observation is based on gut instinct.
“Most counterfeits are easily identifiable by the feel of the paper,” says L. Burke Files, president of Financial Examinations & Evaluations, a firm that investigates, risk management and other types of consulting in Tempe, Arizona.

Generally, counterfeits “do not have the crisp money feel and the raised feeling of the black ink on the front of the bills,” he says.

Similarly, Files, who has been a financial investigator for about 30 years, says that counterfeit money is a problem in all countries and throughout the whole world. He also says that quite a few business owners unfortunately appear to accept and pass on counterfeit dollars knowing they are fake. Often, when a business owner or consumer turns in counterfeit money to the authorities, they do not get refunds for that bill.

“As one person told me, it only becomes bad when someone fails to take it,” Files says. Another suggestion when you are feeling the texture of the bill try to tell if the ink is raised.

“Genuine currency has its ink slightly raised. Therefore, you should be able to feel the texture of the ink,” says Rita Mkrtchyan, a senior finance and litigation defence attorney at Oak View Law Group with offices in Florida and California. She has told many clients, often service industry company starters, how to avoid losses, including how to detect counterfeit American money.

2. Check for Color-Shifting Ink

Features to pay attention to:

  • Color-shifting ink.
  • Study the right-hand corner of the bill.
  • Works with bills $10 and up.

The paper money you are holding should change colour.
“One of the easiest ways to spot a counterfeit bill is to check if the bottom right-hand corner of the bill has colour-shifting ink,” says Austin Fain, the owner of Perfect Steel Solutions, a roofing contractor in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Fain says that most of the company’s transactions are in cash, and since those cash transactions are often a considerable amount, he and his employees have become amateur cash experts in a bid to avoid losses to counterfeiters.

“For all monies, except for the new $5 bill, you can tilt it back and forth and if the numeral in the lower right-hand corner doesn’t shift from green to black or from gold to green, then you most likely have been given a fake bill,” Fain says.

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3. Study the Watermark

Features to pay attention to:

  • The watermark.
  • Check the right side of the bill.
  • Make sure your lighting is good.

“The watermark is the hallmark of an authentic bill,” Fain says. “On some bills it is a replica of the face on the bill and for others it can simply be an oval spot. If you hold the bill up to the light, the watermarks should be visible on the right side of the bill. Make sure that if the watermark is a replica of the face, it matches the face exactly.”
Fain adds that if you hold the bill toward the light and there’s no watermark or if you can see the watermark even without holding it up toward the light, then the bill you are holding is probably a fake dollar bill.

4. Look for Raised Printing

Features to pay attention to:

  • Raised printing.
  • Double-check the watermark and colour-shifting ink.

The most difficult aspect of an authentic banknote for counterfeiters is to reproduce is the raised printing. Incidentally, to detect it, all you need do is to run your fingernail slowly and carefully down the note. You should feel resistance from the note and some vibrations on your nail from the ridges of the raised printing.”
If you do not feel the vibration or resistance, that is where experts suggest double-checking that watermark and looking out for the colour-shifting ink.

5. Check the Serial Number

Features to pay attention to:

  • The serial number.
  • Compare serial numbers if you have more than one suspected counterfeit bill.

You may have probably heard that before, but what are you looking for exactly? Experts say that fake bills may have serial numbers that are not evenly spaced or that are not perfectly aligned in a row.
Also, if you receive multiple suspicious bills, observe if the serial numbers are the same on both bills. Clearly, if they are the same, then they are definitely counterfeit,” Mkrtchyan says.

6. Look for the Fibres

Features to pay attention to:

  • Make sure you look for red fibres.
  • Carefully look for blue fibres.
  • Pay attention to make sure they actually are fibres.

We often think of money as paper, but it is actually made of cotton and linen – and that allows the U.S. Treasury to do some pretty cool things with the “paper” money.
“All U.S. bills have tiny red and blue fibres embedded in the paper,” Mkrtchyan says. “Red and blue lines should not be printed or drawn on, as it is common on counterfeit currency, but should rather be an integral part of the paper itself.”

7. Look for the Plastic Strip in the Bill

Features to pay attention to:

  • A plastic strip that goes from the top to bottom of the bill.
  • Try to look for “USA” on the bill.
  • Invariably, this only works for $5 bills and up.

There is so much that goes into making the money process that we probably all take for granted. Mkrtchyan suggests looking for the plastic strip that goes from the top to the bottom of the money.
“The printing will say ‘USA’ followed by the denomination of the bill, which is clearly spelt out for $5, $10, and $20 bills but written in numerals on the $50 and $100 bills,” she says.

The 1 and 2 dollar bills do not have these plastic strips. Apparently there is not as much of a counterfeiting problem with those bills.

These threads are placed in different places on each denomination to prevent lower denomination bills being bleached and reprinted as higher denominations. Therefore, you should compare bills of the same denomination to detect the same location of the strip.

8. Looking for Micro-printing

Features to pay attention to:

  • You’re looking for micro-printing, hidden on the bill.
  • The micro-printing are often phrases having to do with the United States.

You will have to use a magnifying lens to look for micro-printing. Experts suggest looking at Benjamin Franklin’s collar on the $100 bill. If you have a $50 bill, look at Grant’s collar. Look directly below the treasurer’s signature on the $20 bill, and on the $5 bill, also looking at the eagle’s shield. In these places, you will find phrases like, “The United States of America,” “USA” or “E. Pluribus Unum.”
It is not a secret that these words appear on the bills, but micro-printing is hard for counterfeiters to duplicate.

Do You Need Special Tools to Spot Counterfeit Money?

In as much that it may be tedious as those special tools could be out of reach at the time of receiving these fake bills. It cannot hurt to use special tools to detect counterfeit money, but, as you have read, you do not need them, you just have use your instincts and guts most of the time.

Counterfeit Money Detector: There is a device known as AccuBANKER Cash + Card Counterfeit Detector, currently sold $64.99 on Amazon. It offers features that help employees determine whether they are looking at real or fake cash, as well as a real or fake credit card, according to the product’s description. It has LED lights and an integrated ruler to check the bill’s dimensions, among other noticeable features.

However, there are quite number of counterfeit bill detector machines where you simply put the money into the machine, and it will determine if it is fake or not. The prices of these machines vary wildly. You can find some of them for under $100, but there are many options that will cost you a lot more.

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In the same vein, there are also counterfeit pens, often coming in a pack of 5 for $10, that purport to find fake bills. But in theory, if you write on the money, you will see gold ink if the bill is good and black ink if it is bad note. You will find mixed reviews on products like that, however, since these pens appear to not work as well if you encounter a really well done and sophisticated counterfeit bill.

You can also find ultraviolet flashlights on Amazon and at home improvement and hardware stores, among other places.

“Place a bill on a white piece of bond paper and illuminate both with your UV flashlight,” experts says. “The paper will light up nice and bright, but an authentic currency will not do so. Also, the denomination threads will show a different colour for each denomination, except the $1 bill. Blue for the $5, orange for the $10, green for the $20, yellow for the $50, and red for the $100.”

What Should You Do if You Suspect You Have a Counterfeit Bill?

The U.S. Department of Treasury has some candid suggestions on its website, as do credit unions and banks. Some of the tips you will find include the following:

  1. Don’t say anything that would put you in danger. For example, shouting at the person who gives you the bill is not smart if that person is prone to violence. Besides, what if you are wrong about the person who gave you the fake cash? This might be a completely innocent and unsuspecting consumer who knows absolutely nothing about the bill being counterfeit.
  2. Do not return the bill to the passer. Hold on to that bill, and as soon as possible, contact the police.
  3. Take mental notes. The Treasury suggests, if you can do it safely, carefully observe the passer’s description and their companion’s descriptions and write down their vehicle license plate numbers if you can do so. The police will most likely want to talk to that person.
  4. Contact the authorities. Either contact the police, the Treasury suggests, or your local U.S. Secret Service field office. You can also go to the Secret Service website and fill out the complaint form, reporting the counterfeit money.

Don’t touch the money too much. Place the fake bank note in a plastic bag or an envelope, for the authorities to collect later. This serves as evidence, after all, and in the unlikely event fingerprints could be traced back, you do not want to mess things up with your own prints or damage the bill somehow. Also, the last thing you want is to accidentally mix up the counterfeit money with your real money. Immediately separating it in a bag should prevent that from happening.


What’s the best way to check for counterfeit money? You can carefully examine the serial numbers of the bill. Always confirm that the serial numbers on a bill matches each other. To achieve this, you have look at them carefully. Several fake bills in the US may have serial numbers that are not evenly spaced or that are not perfectly aligned in a straight row. And if you’ve received multiple suspicious money, ensure to see if the serial numbers are the same on both bank notes.

In time to come, we will explain the following;

  • how to check if money is real with light
  • how to spot a fake $100 dollar bill
  • how to detect counterfeit money with uv light
  • counterfeit money website

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