Update From U.S. Secret Service on Counterfeiting

  • New design notes were printed in 2004 in order to stay ahead of counterfeiters (presidents have bigger heads with no circles).
  • Older notes are still accepted and are considered genuine.
  • Mutilated money is still good; send it to the US Treasury and they will send back money in better shape to you.
  • Depending on how much dollar amount is passed determines if the crime is a misdemeanor or felony.
  • Counterfeit pens are not always accurate; they can result a false positive or a false negative. But pens may discourage people from using the counterfeit money.
  • Less than 1/10 of 1% of currency is counterfeit. Most is printed overseas.


  • Hold the currency up to the light and locate the watermark on the right side.
  • The watermark should match the portrait on the front and should be slightly fuzzy.
  • The watermark doesn’t have to look the same on all genuine currency.
  • If the watermark is missing or appears distorted or darkened, be suspicious.
  • If the watermark can be seen without holding it up to the light, be suspicious.
  • Compare the suspect currency with known genuine currency to see differences.
  • A one-dollar bill does not have a watermark.
Counterfeiting - security watermarks


  • Examine the number in the lower right on the front and tilt it back and forth.
  • The number should be green when viewed straight on and black when tilted.
  • Look for a visible color change from green to black, not just for shininess.
  • Many counterfeits are shiny, but don’t change color like real currency.
  • There is no color-shifting ink on the $5 bill.
  • Always tilt suspect currency next to genuine to see differences.
Counterfeiting - color-shifting ink


  • Hold the currency up to the light and locate the security thread.
  • The security thread is in a different location in the paper for each denomination.
  • The text cannot be seen unless held up to a light because it is inside the paper.
  • If the security thread is visible or shiny on the front and back, be suspicious.
  • If the security thread text is blurry or if the thread is darkened, be suspicious.
  • Compare the suspect currency with known genuine currency to see differences.
  • The 3D security ribbon cannot be duplicated by counterfeiters.
  • In 1996, the security thread was put on the $20 bill.
  • The thread on a $100 and $20 has color shifting ink.
  • The $5 does not have color-shifting ink.
Counterfeiting - security threads


  • $100 bill has a raised part on the shoulder of the President.
  • The $100 on back of the bill is in gold.
  • On the $100 bill the “United States of America” is on the collar.
  • The 2004 $100 has a color shifting “Bell in the Ink Well.”
  • A bill is usually made up of 75% cotton and 25% linen.
  • If you are a business and a counterfeit bill comes into your possession, keep it and let local police know.
  • There has not been an increase in counterfeiting in the last 5 years.
  • For businesses, new employees should be checked to make sure they do not pass counterfeit bills.