What To Do If You Possess A Counterfeit Bill?

Despite there being enhanced methods of printing in place plus the implementation of special ink and paper, there are still counterfeiters out there. Banking officials and Secret Service employees are always on the lookout for counterfeit currency.

Over the past decade, the Secret Service has continously busted big counterfeit operation rings and seizing the fake bills before reaching reached circulation. However, detecting counterfeit currency should not be the responsibility of officials alone. It is upon everyone to take part in combating counterfeiting because we all are affected by it.

Several steps to take if you think you are in possession of a counterfeit bill. These steps should be taken immediately. The first step is to call The Secret Service or your local police department to report the bill in question.

For your personal safety, please follow the following steps:

  1. Never put yourself in danger. Do not confront the suspected passer.
  2. Do not return the bill to the passer.
  3. If possible, delay the passer with some excuse.
  4. Observe the passer's description and write down their license plate numbers if possible.
  5. Contact your local police department or call your local U.S. Secret Service Office.
  6. Write your initials and date in the white border area of the suspected counterfeit note.
  7. Do not handle the counterfeit note. Place it inside a protective cover such as a plastic bag or envelope to protect it.
  8. Hand over the suspected currency to a properly identified police officer or a Secret Service Special Agent or mail it to your nearest U.S. Secret Service field office.

In addition, you should be familiar with what real currency looks like. To help put a stop to counterfeiting, people must be observant, and the best way to be diligent is to know what to look for if you think you have come across counterfeit currency.

Counterfeiters rely on the untrained eye when passing counterfeit bills. One of the best ways of lessening the production of counterfeit money is increasing the detection of fake bills. This can only be done by increasing the public awareness of the characteristics of real currency. Counterfeit money detectors can also be used to spot fake currency easily, for any person or business that works with a lot of cash.

There is no financial compensation for the return of the counterfeit bill, but you will have the satisfaction of taking the correct action, and you will be helping combat counterfeiting.

Please make careful notes of the following features of real currency:

  1. Color Shifting Ink: If you hold the new series, bill (with exception of the $5 bill) and tilt it front and back, you can see the numeral in the lower right hand corner as its color shifts between green to black and back.
  2. Watermark: Hold the bill up to a light to view the watermark in an unprinted space to the right of the picture. The watermark can be seen from both sides of the bill since it is not printed on the bill yet it is embedded in the paper.
  3. Security Thread: Hold the bill up to a light to view the security thread. You will see a slight embedded strip running from start to finish on the face of a banknote. In the $10 and $50 the security strip is located to the right of the presentation, and in the $5, $20, and $100, it is located just to the left of the picture.
  4. Ultraviolet Glow: If the bill is held up to an ultraviolet light, the $5 bill glows blue; the $10 bill shows orange, the $20 bill glows green, the $50 bill shines yellow, and the $100 bill glows red - if they are authentic!
  5. Micro printing: There is minute micro printing on the security threads. The $5 bill has "USA FIVE" written on the thread. The $10 bill has "USA TEN" written on the thread. The $20 bill has "USA TWENTY" written on the security thread. The $50 bill has "USA 50" written on the thread. The $100 bill has the words "USA 100" written on the security thread. Micro printing can found around the pictures as well as on the security threads.
  6. Fine Line Printing Patterns: Very fine lines have been added behind the on portrait on the front of the bill and on the backside of the bill to make it harder to reproduce.
  7. Comparison: Compare the feel and composition of the paper with different bills you know are real.
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Marcus - February 28, 2024

I broke a 50$ bill two days ago and the cashier at the liquor store called tigers liquor. He gave me a fake 20$ and I didn’t know because I wasn’t ever gonna see that one coming from a actual business. It’s all on camera. He counted it out before he handed it to me so I just put it away and planed on getting my puppy dog her shots the very next day and when I tried using it I almost got the cops called on me! I went back and confonted him but he said why didn’t I come back that day and and I told him because I didn’t know I had to put away and I didn’t know until the very next day when I decided to use it so he told me that I was lying that he didn’t know if I had switched it and I told him you’re full of it and I also told him that if he pocketed my 20 and gave me a fake 20 that he is seriously going 2 regret that. Honestly guys I don’t know what to do how should I handle this by the way I am homeless in a tent I have two puppy dogs. The $50 was from a really nice lady that I didn’t know she gave me and told me to take care of my dogs and they said it would but how could I do that if I got locked up for some stupid crap like this I don’t understand. I really use somebody’s help and advice thank you

Roses Are Red - September 7, 2022

I got two bills that are taped and say it’s not is legal tender for all debts public and private but doesn’t feel real ..what to do

Tracy - February 11, 2020

Called the local police, and they said nothing they could do. Went to bank to see if anything they could do. They would not touch it either. Told to call police, which I already did. Now to the Secret Service. Of course we all handled it, trying to decide if it was counterfeit. Got it from app. Let Go. Be careful. Luckily it was only a $20

Kara - June 13, 2019

I was given a counterfeit 50 called the police reported it. And they said they would send a investigator out to collect it. 8 months later still have the bill no one ever come to get it.

Alexander Reichmann - November 13, 2018

Hi Jose, From what I understand the Government doesn’t reimburse counterfeit bills but it may be possible to write as a tax write off in some areas. I’d recommend asking a lawyer or accountant to be sure though.

Jose Oliveras - November 13, 2018

I have what vendors refer as to a counterfeit $20 bill. I don’t have a problem turning it in but I’d like to know if I can get a real $20 bill in its replacement. Besides it was handed to me sometime back for breaking either a $100 bill or $50 bill. I’m not sure. Please point me in the direction for this. thank you.

Tony - April 7, 2018

I worked for a liquor store we sold money orders and one time we got a $600 in fake hundreds I called the Secret Service and they didn’t do nothing about it! they said they don’t do anything unless it’s over 1000 dollars. They told me to call my local police department, I called them and they told me to call Secret Service.

Alex Reichmann - November 29, 2017

It seems like a bit of a gray area but I think the main rule is if you get caught using it or with suspect of counterfeiting, is where you can get in legal trouble. If you have a few bad looking bills I don’t imagine it would be a big deal but I would advise asking a lawyer if you are looking to collect them to be sure.

DANNY - November 27, 2017

As a coin and currency collector, is it illegal to collect counterfeit bills? Can you trade or sell them to fellow collectors? I have seen some real cheesy copies and a few nice ones too and always thought it would be neat to have a few in my collection though I do not see many of the out there. Danny

Alex Reichmann - October 11, 2017

I think it’s ideal to turn in counterfeit bills as soon as you can, so authorities can investigate the bills and you can also get rid of them from your possession.

Sometimes counterfeiters travel with their fake bills which can lead a trail, so it can help for catching them if authorities get a hold of the counterfeit bills sooner than later.

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