The cons are on the prowl. On 19th March 2019, the Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI) in a speed swoop pounced on six suspects who were conspiring to deposit Ksh2B equivalent of dollars at the Barclays Bank Queens way Branch. This comes hot on the heals of another fake currency racket worth Ksh32B in Ruiru a few months ago. We cannot forget “wash-wash” who washed former legislator Mungatana Ksh76 of his millions.
In the wake of these fake currency scandals, one needs to know how to quickly spot obviously fake money. As a layman, it may be difficult to spot well concealed fakes, unless you use some sophisticated methods adopted by banks.
Most cons prefer to fake US Dollars because of their high value and ease of exchanging. To cover yourself from easy US Dollar fakes, the financial matters team researched the security features on US dollars; check them out below:
Touch and Feel the texture of the bill.
If you handle dollars frequently, you can identify a lower-quality fake bill instantly by just touching it. However, since the dollar is not our usual currency in Africa, you may not have that much experience with it. However, by paying attention to its feel, you might recognize a fake because the paper that bank notes are printed on is not sold commercially and the composition of the paper and ink is confidential.
Feel the raised Ink.
Genuine US dollar currency has slightly raised ink. When holding a new dollar bill, you should be able to easily feel the texture of this ink.
Compare with another genuine bill.
If you happen to posses other bills and you suspect a bill, compare it with another of the same denomination and series. If the bill feels all right but you are still suspicious and skeptical, hold the bill side by side and scrutinize them. Also, all denominations, have been redesigned at least once since 1990, so it is best to compare the suspect bill to one in the same series, or date.
Look for lack of print detail.
Fake bills will have low printing quality and will lack details. Look carefully at the printing quality. Real U.S. bills are printed using techniques that regular offset printing and digital printing that most counterfeiters use cannot replicate.
Look for blurry or sketchy areas, especially in fine details such as around the borders–real bills have clear, unbroken borders. Portraits and other images in fake bills may appear dull, blurred, and flat, while in real currency, the portraits are sharp and contain very fine detailing.
Look for colored fibers in the paper.
All US Dollar bills have tiny red and blue fibers embedded in the paper. Counterfeiters sometimes try to reproduce these by printing or sketching imitations of these fibers onto the paper, but on close scrutiny of the counterfeit note you will see that they are printed on, rather than being part or embedded in the paper.
Examine the serial numbers.
Serial numbers require that a sophisticated printing mechanism is employed and sometimes counterfeiters overlook this. Make sure that the serial numbers on a bill match, and look at them carefully. Fake bills may have serial numbers that are not evenly spaced or that are not perfectly aligned in a row. If you received multiple suspicious bills, see if the serial numbers are the same on both bills. If they are the same, then they are counterfeit notes.
Look for specific security features
The US Dollar employ some sophisticated security features which make it easy to spot a fake $5, $10, $20, $50 or $100 bill. Below is a list of security features, all of which are very difficult to fake.
- Security thread (a plastic strip) running from top to bottom.
US dollars have an embedded (not printed) security thread which if you hold the bill up to the light, you will see the strip and printing on it. The $5 bill has “USA FIVE”, the $10 bill has “USA TEN”; the $20 bill has “USA TWENTY”; the $50 bill has “USA 50”; and the $100 bill has the words “USA 100” written on the security thread. Micro-printing can be found on the security threads too.
These threads are placed in different places on each denomination to prevent lower denomination bills being bleached and reprinted as higher denominations. Compare a genuine bill of the same denomination, to make sure that the position of the thread is correct. If it is not, the bill is not genuine.
- Hold the bill to ultraviolet light.
If you hold the bill up to an ultraviolet light or sometimes referred to as black light, if authentic, the security thread in the bills will glow: the $5 bill glows blue, the $10 bill glows orange, the $20 bill glows green, the $50 bill glows yellow and the $100 bill glows pink.
- Hold the bill up to a light to check for a watermark.
A watermark bearing the image of the person whose portrait is on the bill can be found on all $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills series 1996 and later, and on $5 bills series 1999 and later. The watermark is embedded in the paper to the right of the portrait, and it can be seen from both sides of the bill.
- Tilt the bill to examine the color-shifting ink.
Color-shifting ink (ink that appears to change color when the bill is tilted) can be found on 100, 50- 10 and 20-dollar bills; $5 and lower bills do not yet have this feature. The color originally appeared to change from green to black, but it goes from copper to green in recent redesigns of the bills.
- Use a magnifying glass to examine micro-printing.
Beginning in 1990, very tiny printing was added to certain places (which have periodically been changed since then) on $5 and higher denomination bills. The exact location of the micro-printing is not generally an issue. Rather, counterfeits will often have either no micro-printing or very blurred micro-printing. On a genuine bill, the micro-printing will be crisp and clear.
- Run your fingernail over the portrait’s vest of the bill.
You should feel distinctive ridges, printers cannot reproduce this. Look for differences, not similarities.
- Notice the EURion
Since 2004, $10, $20 and $50 bills received a redesign with several changes to their overall look. More colors were added and probably the most important security feature was the addition of EURion Constellations, a distinct arrangement of symbols (in this case, numbers) which triggers many color photocopiers to refuse to copy the bill.
- Ink smear
It’s a common misconception that if the ink smears when you rub the bill on something, the bill is not genuine. This is not necessarily true because ink that does not smear does not mean that the bill is genuine.
- counterfeit detection pen.
U.S. Government does not recommend relying solely on a counterfeit-detection pen of the kind that you often see clerks use in stores. These pens can only indicate whether the note is printed on the wrong kind of paper (they simply react to the presence of starch). As such, they will catch some counterfeits, but they won’t detect more sophisticated fakes and will give false-negatives on real money that is been through the wash.
- Raised Bills.
This is a simple type of counterfeit in which numerals are glued onto a low denomination bill to make it look like a higher denomination. If you compare the numbers in the corners to the denomination printed in letters at the bottom of the bill, you can tell a fake. If you are still not sure, compare the bill to another bill of the same denomination.
- Magnetic Ink
The ink used in U.S. currency is actually magnetic, but this is not a method for detecting counterfeits. The strength is extremely low and is useful only for automated currency counters. If you have a small but strong magnet, although you cannot lift the bill off of a table, or use it to pull bills out of someone’s pocket, you can certainly tell that it is magnetic.
As the steps above explain, the $1 and $2 bills have fewer security features than other denominations because counterfeiters rarely try to make these bills.
Counterfeiters or so-called wash-wash in Kenya have become extremely sophisticated and can even use relatives to coax you to buy their fake currencies, be on the lookout always. Counterfeit bills, if they’re any good at all, will be similar to real ones in many ways, but if a bill differs in just one way, it’s probably fake.