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How to Detect Counterfeit Money | CONTROLTEK Pen

November 26, 2019

Today there is a lot of counterfeit detection technology available, from UV light counterfeit detection lamps to more affordable counterfeit money pens. But there are a lot of ways you can tell if a bill is authentic or fake, and they are so easy that you can train all your store associates how to detect counterfeit money.

Color Matching and Blurring

Counterfeits don’t have access to the high-tech printers used in the U.S. Treasury to print authentic bills. If you see blurry seals or shades of green that don’t quite match, it’s likely the bill is counterfeit.


One of the most well-known security features of an authentic banknote is its watermark. Many of the new bills use a watermark that is actually a replica of the face on the bill. On other banknotes, it is just an oval spot. Here are some things to keep in mind when looking at a bill’s watermark:

  • The watermark should only be visible when you hold the bill up to the light.
  • The watermark should be on the right side of the bill.
  • If the watermark is a face, it should exactly match the face on the bill. Sometimes counterfeits bleach lower bills and reprint them with higher values, in which case the face wouldn’t match the watermark.
  • If there is no watermark or the watermark is visible without being held up to the light, the bill is most likely a counterfeit.

Color-shifting Ink

One of the first things to check to see if a bill is authentic is if the bill denomination on the bottom right-hand corner has color-shifting ink. Going back to 1996, all bills of $5 or more have this security feature. If you hold a new series bill (except for the new $5 bill) and tilt it back and forth, you can see that the numeral in the lower right-hand corner shifts from green to black or from gold to green.

Raised Printing

All authentic banknotes have raised printing, which is difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce. To detect raised printing, run your fingernail carefully down the note. You should feel some vibration on your nail from the ridges of the raised printing. If you don’t feel this texture, then you should check the bill further.

What to Do with Counterfeit Money

It is important for retailers to spot counterfeit money as early as they can because banks will not accept counterfeit bills. This means that the financial loss directly impacts the retailers. Do you know what to do with counterfeit money?

Do not directly confront the passer. Do not return the bill to the passer but instead delay them with some excuse, if possible. People who know they are using counterfeit money would rather avoid a sticky situation than push forward. It is important that you never directly accuse a customer, as there is a high change that they themselves were duped by the counterfeit bill.

Write your initials and the date in the white border area of the suspected counterfeit bill. Do not handle the counterfeit bill. Instead, place it in a plastic bag or envelope to protect it until you can get it to a law enforcement officer.

Contact your local police department or call your local Secret Service office. Did you know the Secret Service was originally founded to handle counterfeit money? You can either hand the counterfeit bill directly to an identified Secret Service Special Agent or mail it to your nearest Secret Service office.

Detect Counterfeit Money with CONTROLTEK

From cost-effective UV light counterfeit detectors to counterfeit money pens, CONTROLTEK has a solution for counterfeit detection.