3 Ways To Spot A Counterfeit Bill

If you suspect you’ve been stuck with counterfeit money, you should be able to verify your suspicions with a quick check. Knowing what telltale signs to look for can keep you from being ripped off in a cash transaction.

One of the better posts we’ve seen on the topic came from way back in 2007, courtesy of Wise Bread. Here are some indications that your money isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on:

* Texture. Real money, made with linen and cotton, has a distinctively crisp feel. Compare it to another bill in your wallet.

* Look for the watermark. Hold the bill up to the light and you should be able to see a telltale image emerge. If the watermark doesn’t match the portrait or denomination of the bill, it might be a reprinted forgery.

* Check for color-shifting ink. Larger bills are imprinted with ink that appears to be a different color when you look at it from an angle rather than head-on.

If you’ve got a counterfeit bill, take it to the authorities rather than a bank.

How to Spot Counterfeit Money [Wise Bread]


Edit Your Comment

  1. rpm773 says:

    And here I usually just put the bill between my two incisors and bite down.

  2. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    In my case:

    ‚óè Color: If it’s not bright green, blue, purple, beige or pink, chances are it’s fake.


    • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

      As a general rule I just assume all Canadian money is worthless.

      • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

        If that’s the case, I’m guessing American money is less than worthless? Seeing as Canadian money > American as of today… %

  3. Lethe says:

    Canadian money used to have little green dots that you could, with a little bit of effort and long fingernails, peel off. I’m guessing they discontinued that security measure because they underestimated everyone’s desire to peel them off for no reason. It was as fun as bubble wrap!

    • Cat says:

      That’s Tension Sheet¬Æ. Not bubble wrap.

    • huadpe says:

      That was replaced with the raised indents in the upper left corner of a bill. There are 3 sets of 6 indents on a 20, for example. They’re used for blind people, to help them identify bills.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    “3 Ways To Spot A Counterfeit Bill”

    1). It says good to be in debt instead of good for all debts
    2). It comes on a roll with perforations
    3). It has a picture of Bush on it instead of a former president

    • Captain Spock says:

      I figured you meant “Dead” president, unless this is still 2001 – 2008

      • Blueskylaw says:

        It was a post in good humour Secret Service Spock, no harm was meant by it.

        • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

          Um, yeah… Not all US bills have pictures of “dead presidents” on them. As a matter of fact, take a close look at the bills used in the picture selected for this article…

          Which president was he?

    • bluline says:

      This should have been: “Three ways to Get Rid of a Counterfeit Bill” because if you turn it in, you’re out the value of the bill.

  5. mrvw says:

    I cashed a check written from wells fargo at a wells fargo, I then took the cash to deposit in my credit union. One of the bills ended up being fake. I started to freak out a little bit, but my credit union just asked where I got it and when. I gave them the cashed check ticket from wells fargo, they said ok we’ll handle this and credited my account for the fake twenty.

  6. Hoss says:

    Six ways to write blog posts within really trying…

  7. PixiePerson says:

    After doing the easy stuff, check out the microprinting with your microscope. I assume you have one.

    (No, seriously, you can use a magnifying glass too.)

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

      You don’t carry a 30x or greater jewlers loupe on you at all times? Maybe it’s just the flea marketer in me.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      a great deal of the microprinting is visible to the naked eye as well. you don’t necessarily need to read all the names of the states off the $5 but just tell if they are there and pretty close.

      also – for the list – intaglio printing is an easy identifier. the ink is forced onto the bill under the printing plate, which is slightly convex. this leaves that distintive raised printing behind. it’s an expensive printing process to set up and most counterfeiters don’t bother. it’s harder to fake than the paper

    • Bodger says:

      Bausch & Lomb 10X Hastings Triplet — Don’t leave home without it.

  8. ScandalMgr says:

    “4 Ways to spot a Counterfeit Bill”

    There, fixed it for ya, Phil.

    Next up “2.5 Ways to spot a Counterfeit Journalist”

  9. rmorin says:

    3 Ways to Spot A Phil Post:

    *Content Linking and summarizing common knowledge blog posts that nearly anyone capable of operating a web browser already knows.

    *Lists The post is in a list form, usually with * preceding it and one or two lead words in bold.

    *Date The linked blog is at least a few year olds, and in this instance literally half a decade.

    If you’ve got a Phil post, just start making jokes in the comments instead of having a discussion on consumer issues.

  10. Gman says:

    Hey give Phil credit for this one. At least it is well within the boundaries of the blog. This is something I actually expect to read here.

    Now I patiently await later today “3 signs that your soda has gone flat” article.

  11. Power Imbalance says:

    “If you’ve got a counterfeit bill, take it to the authorities rather than a bank.”

    ^^^ If you do this not only are you linked to the bill in question and subject to future Secret Service questioning/harassment but you also loose the entire face value of the bill, i.e. if you turn in a fake $20 you don’t get a real $20 in return you just get a $0 dollar bill. American Greed did a few shows on this.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

      Except that, IIRC, if you get a counterfeit bill, you can obtain a form and deduct the value of that bill from your taxes as a loss. This is only doable with proof from an agency.

      • SBR249 says:

        Yeah but the face value and the tax value of the face value of the bill are huge differences. Not to mention what if you don’t itemize.

    • scoosdad says:

      Is there a $0 dollar bill? I’ll bet it’s counterfeit.

      • cowboyesfan says:

        Thats what those Hillary Clinton dollars are worth now that she didn’t get elected president.

      • comedian says:

        Somewhat random aside.

        Some clever reform activists in India printed up a bunch of Zero Rupee notes as part of an effort to fight corruption by bribe-soliciting officials.


        • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

          How do you print a gem? Also, what color would a 0-rupee rupee be? Clear? I suppose it would be easier to hide in tufts of grass, then.

        • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

          How do you print a gem? Also, what color would a 0-rupee rupee be? Clear? I suppose it would be easier to hide in tufts of grass, then.

  12. jerry101 says:


  13. philpm says:

    If it has the corners from a $20 bill cut off and pasted onto a $1 bill. I’ve seen it happen. Twice.

  14. MeowMaximus says:

    1: Lincoln is clean shaven
    2: The caption on the great seal reads “Party on, dudes!”
    3: Its a 7$ bill
    4: Tits. On the back of every bill.
    5: Its printed on an old Dot-matrix printer

    • scoosdad says:

      What is this, a David Letterman bit ‘Top Ten Signs You Have a Counterfeit Bill’?

      OK, I’ll add one:

      6. Instead of the eye at the top of the pyramid on the back, it’s Oprah! ($1 bill only).

  15. rpm773 says:

    The comments are better than the article.

    And they have the added benefit from being written within the current decade.

  16. SavijMuhdrox says:

    I usually wipe my ass with it. If i get crap all over my hand, that means its not even good enough to do that, so then it must be valid American Currency.

  17. ElleAnn says:

    I have a recurring dream in which I go to pay for something and discover that all of my money is obviously counterfeit. Apparently my subconscious is easily duped into accepting fake money.

  18. RiverStyX says:

    I would advise against taking it to the authorities, I’ve heard stories where they’ve interrogated people and made them fill out endless form after form. Just like it is in the real world: Criminals can do whatever they want, the law abiding are there to clean up the mess.

  19. Galium says:

    I use all my phony money to pay taxes at Amazon.

  20. vastrightwing says:

    Fact: What we call US dollars is really “Federal Reserve” Notes. Nowhere on any bill will you find United States Dollars. US dollars haven’t existed since 1913. After 1913, inflation started consuming our wealth as it continues accelerating today. Makes me want to go back to pre-1913 real United States Dollars.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

      FIAT CURRENCY!! You know what that stands for? Fix It Again, Tyrant!

      • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

        Fiat currency is stupid anyway because who drives a Fiat, anyway?

    • jerry101 says:

      I have a $5 bill in my hand. It says “five dollars” on it. All money is debt, and I know this money is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. You know how I know? The US Treasury will accept this $5 bill if I owe $5 in taxes. Good luck paying a $5 tax bill with a lump of shiny rock. Or with some other country’s currency. Only dollars will do to pay what is due.

    • iKento says:

      Right. A Federal Reserve Note denominated in United States dollars.

  21. TouchMyMonkey says:

    If they encrypted the serial numbers, they could print $100 bills on newsprint.

  22. dognose says:

    I think a great way to teach people would be to show them am actual real life good counterfeit. I’ve never seen one..