How to Recognize Fake Money

How to Recognize Fake Money
••• dix dollars, 10 dollars, ten dollars, dieci dollari, ten box image by Blue Moon from

Counterfeit money is strictly against the law in the United States, and you won’t have to deal with the local police department if you get caught with fake money; you’ll deal with the Secret Service. If you accept counterfeit money as payment, as the bank will not take it nor reimburse you for it. There are a few very noticeable signs that distinguish real money from fake money.

Feel the bill. Genuine bills have a stiff and tough quality to them. Counterfeit bills often feel like actual paper, such as the paper you use in your printer, or have a slippery feel to them.

Examine the portrait for a dull color and lifeless features. Genuine money features a portrait that is lifelike and well-detailed, while a counterfeit portrait is likely to fade into the background and feature colors that are darker than typically seen on a portrait.

Look at the Treasury and Federal Reserve seals for inconsistencies with the toothlike points that wrap around the boarder of the seal. Real seals have perfect toothlike points, and each point is the same shape. Counterfeit points are sometimes blurred, broken or uneven.

Examine the boarder of a bill for clear, evenly spaced and distinct lines. Genuine bills have even, fine and unbroken borders, whereas the borders of counterfeit bills are often blurred, smudged, unevenly spaced and broken.

Look at the serial number. The serial number ink is the same color as the Treasury seal on genuine bills, and the numbers themselves are evenly spaced. Counterfeit bills sometimes feature serial numbers that are a different shade of ink than the Treasury seal, and the numbers may not be uniformly aligned.

Examine the actual paper of the bill. Genuine bills have red and blue fibers embedded into the paper, whereas counterfeit bills have the coloring printed onto the paper.

Feel around the edge of coins. Genuine coins above 5 cents in value have an even edge. The edge around counterfeit coins is typically rough or broken in some places, or completely missing.


  • All $100 bills printed after 1996, $50 bills printed after 1997 and $20 bills printed after 1998 feature a watermark than you can see by holding the bill up to a light.