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Counterfeit Currency

COUNTERFEIT: to imitate or copy, especially with the intent to deceive.

Deceiving people does not gain their confidence, and confidence is a necessary part of running a process efficiently and smoothly.

Confidence is especially important when it comes to money; if people do not have confidence in their money, the process of trading-which is the economy-will not run at all, and we would be forced to revert to barter to obtain the goods and services we need.

ln order to guarantee people's confidence in our money, the United States Constitution empowers only the Federal Government to issue currency (an official and standardized medium of exchange).

Paper money is printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, a section of the Treasury Department, in Washington, D. C. The process involves skilled printers and engravers using specially designed machines to insure the clearest and finest lines which distinguish genuine currency.

Despite improved and exact methods of printing, and special paper and ink, people still try to make their own money. ln fiscal year 1988 alone, counterfeits with a value of $89 million were discovered in the United States. Of this amount $7.5 million reached the public.

Banking officials and Secret Service employees are always on the lookout for counterfeits. All currency received by Federal Reserve Banks is inspected before being returned to circulation. However, detecting counterfeits is not the responsibility of officials alone. It is everyone's business because everyone is affected by the stability of our currency and the economy. Counterfeiters rely on the untrained eye when passing counterfeits. So, one of the best ways of decreasing the production of counterfeits is increasing the probability of fake bills being detected. This can only be done by increasing the public awareness of the characteristics of genuine vs. counterfeit bills.

How To Tell If It's Counterfeit?
PORTRAIT
Genuine: Face appears lifelike. It stands out sharply from the fine screen background of regular, unbroken lines. Lines in the face, hair, and clothing are distinct.

Counterfeit: Lines are blurred and may blend into the background, which itself may be too light or dark. Face and eyes may appear lifeless.

PAPER
Genuine: Special, very high quality rag paper with small red and blue threads throughout is used. It has a distinctive texture and color.

Counterfeit: Paper may feel different or may be a different white than genuine paper. Red and blue lines may be drawn on to imitate the fibers.

SEAL
Genuine: Saw tooth points are sharp and evenly spaced. Counterfeit: Saw tooth points may be broken, blunt, or uneven. Seal may also be unclear.

SERIAL NUMBER
Genuine: Figures are sharp and evenly spaced. On Federal Reserve Notes, the prefix letter agrees with the District letter in the seal.

Counterfeit: Poor impression may make the numbers too light or dark, or may be blurred. May also be unevenly spaced or out-of-line.

BORDER
Genuine: Scroll work has fine crisscrossing lines which are sharp and unbroken.

Counterfeit: Lines may be blurred and are often broken.

More On How To Tell If It's Counterfeit?
You count money constantly during the day. How will you pick out the one counterfeit bill from the over 6000 bills you might handle on an average day?

Believe it or not, it is not the portrait, or the mis-alignment of numbers, the run-together pattern, or even the missing red and blue threads that will first tip you off. It is the feel that will instantly alert you to the fact that something is wrong with the bill. Take a real good look at a bill that 'feels different.' There is a good chance that it's counterfeit.

What To Do If You Find One?

  1. Do not return it to the passer. Keep it and write your name and the date on it so you can identify it later.
  2. Notify the nearest Secret Service office or police.
  3. Record who gave it to you along with where and when you got it. If you can, write down a description of the person who passed it, as well as information such as the license number of any vehicle used.

What Happens Next?
The counterfeit will be confiscated by the Treasury Department to remove it from circulation, and as evidence in the event of prosecution of both the counterfeiters and the counterfeit passers. This means that the discoverer loses the face value of the counterfeit turned in. Anyone who is convicted of passing counterfeit currency can receive up to 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine up to $10,000. Thus it is wiser to turn in a counterfeit bill, rather than try to pass it on to someone else. Only when everyone in the economy is concerned and willing to do their part in maintaining the currency's integrity will the circulation of counterfeits be stopped?and our currency's value insured.

Speaking Of Counterfeits?Did You Know??
that more than half of a bill is considered legal tender?

that only the front of a dollar bill is valuable? If you were able to separate the front of a bill from the back, only the front half would be considered "money"

that until 1929 our currency measured 7.42 x 3.13 inches. Since then currency has measured 6.14 x 2.61 inches-an easier size to handle and store.

Copyright © 1990 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 1, No. 4, 4/90

First published on 04/01/1990

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