Can you spot counterfeit money?


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– If you were given a real and fake counterfeit $100 bill, would you be able to tell the difference?

There are multiple hidden security features on bills, but with advancing copying techniques, it’s getting harder to tell.

Steven McMahon is the Agent in Charge with U.S. Secret Service out of Grand Rapids and says the $20 bill used to be the most common fake currency getting passed off, but now they’re seeing higher domination bills more in the mix.

“The 100 dollar bill is really coming into circulation as one that’s being passed,” said McMahon.

So how can you tell the difference?

There are multiple security features on each bill, but the two easiest to recognize are the watermark on the right side of the bill and the color changing ink on the bottom right of the bill.

For example, when you hold a $20 bill up the light, you can see the watermark of Andrew Jackson.

This is a feature that’s hard for counterfeiters to copy.

On the $100 bill, the color changing ink in the bottom corner will change from copper to green when it’s moved.

McMahon told 6 News about an example of an attempt to match the copper ink.

“They utilized a glitter pen, to color in the $100, and make it shiny, similar to optically variable color shifting ink, however when you look at it closely enough, you recognize that it does not shift, like the standard paper should,” said McMahon.

6 News was here for you yesterday about how businesses are trying to combat the ongoing counterfeit issue.

Chester Cunningham is the general manager of a Hungry Howie’s in Jackson and says they use a counterfeit detection pen to see if a bill is fake.

With all these attempts to copy bills, some are even printing bigger domination bills on smaller ones, like erasing the ink of a $1 bill and copying the $100 bill features on it, but that makes counterfeit pens useless.

“The counterfeiters themselves have taken a genuine bill and erased the ink off of the genuine bill to leave themselves with the actual paper itself. no the counterfeit pen is a good deterrent but whoever it’s not going to detect the counterfeit if it’s printed on real paper,” said McMahon.

But what if you get caught with counterfeit?

“We’re going to do an investigation, most likely with our local police department, to determine the intent of that person, what their intent was to pass,” said McMahon “whether it was to pass the counterfeit or whether they unknowingly possessed that counterfeit.”

If you do try to pass off a bill, knowing that it’s fake, you could face some serious charges and jail time. If you come across a fake bill, you should call your local police department of the U.S. Secret Service.

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