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Counterfeiting

    Counterfeiting of money is one of the oldest crimes in history. It was a serious problem in the early days of our country when banks issued their own currency. By the time of the Civil War, it was estimated that one-third of all currency in circulation was counterfeit.

    At that time, there were approximately 1,600 state banks designing and printing their own notes. Each note carried a different design, making it difficult to distinguish the 4,000 varieties of counterfeits from the 7,000 varieties of genuine notes.

    It was hoped the adoption of a national currency in 1863 would solve the counterfeiting problem. However, the national currency was soon counterfeited so extensively it became necessary for the Government to take enforcement measures. On July 5, 1865, the United States Secret Service was established to suppress counterfeiting.

    Although counterfeiting has been substantially curtailed since the establishment of the Secret Service, this crime continues to represent a potential danger to the Nation's economy and a source of financial loss to its citizens. Modern photographic and printing devices have made the production of counterfeit money relatively easy. In addition, recent innovations in office machine copiers have given rise to the so called "casual counterfeiter" who has access to such equipment.

How To Detect Counterfeit Money

 

    Genuine money is made by the Government's master craftsmen who use engraved plates and printing equipment designed for that purpose. Most counterfeiters use a photomechanical or "off set" method to make a printing plate from a photograph of a genuine note.

    You can help guard against the threat from counterfeiters by becoming more familiar with United States Money.

    Look at the money you receive. Compare a suspect note with a genuine note of the same denomination and series, paying attention to the quality of printing and paper characteristics. Look for differences, not similarities.

    1. Portrait
      The genuine portrait appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the fine screen-like background. The counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background which is often too dark or mottled.

    2. Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals
      On a genuine bill, the sawtooth points of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct, and sharp. The counterfeit seals may have uneven, blunt, or broken sawtooth points.

    3. Serial Numbers
      Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. They are printed in the same ink color as the Treasury seal. On a counterfeit, the serial numbers may differ in color or shade of ink from the Treasury seal. The numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned.

    4. Border
      The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken. On the counterfeit, the lines in the outer margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.

    5. Paper
      Genuine paper contains no watermarks. It has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Often counterfeiters try to simulate these fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper. Close inspection reveals, however, that on the counterfeit note the lines are printed on the surface, not embedded in the paper. It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacturing of United States currency.

      Some people believe that a bill must be counterfeit if the ink rubs off. This is not true. Genuine currency, when rubbed on paper, can leave ink smears.

    6. Raised Notes
      Genuine paper currency is sometimes altered in an attempt to increase its face value. One common method is to glue numerals from high denomination bills to the corners of a note of lower denomination.

      These bills are also considered counterfeit, and those who produce them are subject to fines up to $1,000, or imprisonment up to 5 years, or both. If you suspect you are in possession of a raised note:

      • Compare the denomination numerals on each corner with the denomination written out at the bottom of the note (front and back) and through the Treasury seal.
      • Compare the suspect note to a genuine note of the same denomination and series year.

    7. Counterfeit Coins
      Genuine coins are struck (stamped out) by special machinery. Most counterfeit coins are made by pouring liquid metal into molds or dies. This procedure often leaves die marks, such as cracks or pimples of metal on the counterfeit coin.

      Today counterfeit coins are made primarily to simulate rare coins which are of value to collectors. Sometimes this is done by altering genuine coins to increase their numismatic value.

      The most common changes are the removal, addition, or alteration of the coin's date or mint marks.

      If you suspect you are in possession of a counterfeit or altered coin, compare it with a genuine one of the same value.

      If it is above 5 cents in value, it should have corrugated outer edges, referred to as "reeding." Reeding on genuine coins is even and distinct. The counterfeit coin's reeding may be uneven, crooked, or missing altogether.

IF YOU RECEIVE A COUNTERFEIT:
  1. Do not return it to the passer.
  2. Delay the passer if possible.
  3. Observe the passer's description, as well as that of any companions, and the license numbers of any vehicle used.
  4. Telephone your local police department or the United States Secret Service. These numbers can be found on the inside front page of your local telephone directory.
  5. Write your initials and the date on a blank portion of the suspect note.
  6. Do not handle the note. Carefully place it in a protective covering, such as an envelope.
  7. Surrender the note or coin only to a properly identified police officer or U.S. Secret Service agent.
Design Features For Newly Issued Currency

 

    Because of the advances in color copier technology, two new security features are being added to U.S. currency. These new features appeared first in Series 1990, $50 and $100 Federal Reserve Notes. Additional denominations are gradually being phased in. Existing currency and the new series will co-circulate until existing currency is withdrawn at the Federal Reserve banks and branches. Withdrawal will be based on normal wear.

  1. Microprinting
    Concurrent with the addition of the security thread, a line of microprinting appears on the rim of the portrait on $50 and $100 denominations, beginning with Series 1990. The words "THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" are repeated along the sides of the portrait. As with the new security thread, the microprinting will also be gradually phased in on all denominations, with the possible exception of the $1 denomination.

    To the naked eye, the microprinting appears as little more than a solid line and can only be read by using magnification. Neither of the new security features can be accurately reproduced by an office machine copier.

  2. Inscribed Security Thread
    A clear, inscribed polyester thread has been incorporated into the paper of genuine currency. The thread is embedded in the paper and runs vertically through the clear field to the left of the Federal Reserve seal on all notes except the $1 denomination. If it is decided to use the thread in the $1 denomination, it will be located between the Federal Reserve seal and the portrait.

    Printed on the thread is a denomination identifier. On $20 denominations and lower, the security thread has "USA" followed by the written denomination. For example, "USA TWENTY USA TWENTY" is repeated along the entire length of the thread. Higher denominations have "USA" plus the numerical value, such as "USA 50 USA 50" repeated along the entire length of the thread. The inscriptions are printed so that they can be read from either the face of the back of the note. The thread and the printing can only be seen by holding the note up to a light source.

Illustration of Currency, Checks or Other Obligations.

 

    The law sharply restricts photographs of other printed reproductions of paper currency, checks, bonds, revenue stamps, and securities of the United States and foreign governments.

    Color reproductions of paper currency, checks, or bonds for any purpose are illegal. No color other than black and white may be used.

    Photographic or other likenesses of United States and foreign currencies are permissible for any non-fraudulent purpose provided the items are reproduced in black and white and are less than 3/4 or greater than 1 1/2 times the size, in linear dimension, of any part of the original item being reproduced. Negatives and plates used in making the likenesses must be destroyed after their use for the purpose for which they were made. This policy permits the use of currency reproductions in commercial advertisements, provided they conform to the size and color restrictions.

Reprinted from "Know Your Money" published for the Department of the Treasury and the United States Secret Service. The booklet, which includes photographs, is available for a fee from Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.
 
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