If you have a job where you routinely handle cash, such as a waitress or cashier, it helps to be able to recognize counterfeit money. If your customer does pass phony bills to you, it may end up coming out of your pocket, as often managers will take any losses out of the employee’s paycheck. Fortunately, the United States Government has developed several sure-fire ways to detect if certain bills are not real, as the latest paper money styles include several security features to help the general public identify any counterfeit bills.
One of these features is a security thread. Currently embedded in all new United States bills except the one dollar note, this thread is a thin strip that runs vertically through the bill and can only be seen if the note is held up to the light. It has text on it which denotes the face value of the bill in which it resides, so a five dollar bill’s security thread will say “USA FIVE” over and over. If the bill in question does not have a security thread running through it and it’s one of the newer styles (1996 or later), it may be counterfeit.
Another security feature in the latest bills is the watermark. Again, if the bill (any note other than the one) is held up to the light, a ghost-like image of the portrait that is on the front of the bill should appear somewhere to the right of the original portrait. This feature is embedded into the paper so that it is only visible if viewed in this way. So, any bills higher than one without this watermark is most likely counterfeit if it’s in the newer style.
A third way the U.S. Mint has set out to foil counterfeiters is to incorporate micro printing into the new designs. Basically, the government has developed technology to print on bills extremely tiny words that are so small, commercially available printers are unable to duplicate them and instead print just a blur where the words are supposed to be. One example of this is that the face value of the bill is spelled out over and over in the vertical design on each side of the five dollar note’s obverse. There are other areas as well where micro printing is used on the new bill styles to hopefully keep counterfeiters from printing their own money. If you can determine where these tiny words are located on each denomination, it can be something else to look for when checking to see if your bill is real or not.
Finally, all bills of the new style contain optically variable ink (OVI), which will change from black to green depending on the angle the bill is held in relation to the eyes. The number in the lower right corner on the reverse side is printed in this type of ink, so an easy way to confirm the legitimacy of a bill is to look for this feature.
If you can become comfortable recognizing these security features, you can help in the constant battle against counterfeit money. There will never be a perfect system in place, as crooks always seem to be able to circumvent even the most complex security measures eventually, but the key is to stay one step ahead of them at all times, and the U.S. Mint has succeeded in doing that with its latest design in paper money.