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Counterfeit Money and How to Spot It

January 17, 2014

Counterfeit money exists even before the first coins were minted. Native Americans, for instance, used blue dark shells as coins, and forgers found a way of producing cheap and easier to find replicas. As technology evolved, counterfeiters became more and more skillful, succeeding to flush the market with fake coins and notes, and forcing governments to improve their coinage techniques and develop special security features that would make money forging more difficult.

However, no government succeeded to stop this phenomenon, and counterfeit money is still a reality we all have to be aware of. Therefore, here are some tips that will help you spot fake dollar and euro notes (the most widely used currencies in the world):


Euro banknotes include a series of security features that should help you detect any fake bill you might encounter. Here are some of the easiest to spot:

  1. The watermark – visible only when the note is held up to a light.
  2. The security thread – a dark line embedded in the texture and displaying the word „euro” and the value of the note.
  3. The see-through register – the figure representing the value of the note made of irregular shapes and located in upper left corner of the note.
  4. The hologram stripe – visible only on 5, 10 and 20 euro banknotes.
  5. The hologram patch – features only 50, 100, 200 and 500 euro banknotes.
  6. The glossy stripe – used only on 5, 10 and 20 euro bank notes.
  7. The color-shifting ink – present only on 50, 100, 200 and 500 euro banknotes.
  8. The paper – actually cotton fiber, not really paper.
  9. The raised print – the abbreviated form of the European Central Bank in the different European languages printed using the intaglio technique.

An always evolving technique that made the foundation of US Secret Services back in the day, making dollar bills more difficult to forge and detecting the fake one is based on the following elements:


  1. The portrait – its color should not be identical to the bill’s background.
  2. Federal Reserve and Treasury seals – its ink color should be the same as the one used for the serial number.
  3. The border of the bill’s design mustn’t be blurry.
  4. The serial numbers are aligned and uniformly spaced on a real dollar bill.
  5. The paper has embedded reddish and bluish fibers that are difficult to replicate.
  6. The raised texture of the bill
  7. The watermark – visible when the bill is held against light and its portrait should be the same as the one printed on the bill.

Despite the efforts made by the US Secret Services as well as by the European authorities, counterfeit money is still in circulation in large quantities. Some of it is detected with the population’s help. This makes knowing which security features to look for worthwhile, not to mention the personal benefit of not being in the possession of a fake dollar or euro bill.

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