Counterfeit Money

This information is provided for educational purposes only. The Town of Fairfield and the Fairfield Police Department expressly disclaim any and all liability resulting from the material and any recommendations provided and do not represent that these recommendations will prevent a crime or in the event of such crime limit damage to any person or property.

There has been an increase in reports of counterfeit money being circulated throughout Fairfield. According to law enforcement reports, this money has been passed at both retail establishments and through private transactions (i.e. rummage sales). Many times, these criminals will target businesses at peak hours, hoping that the employee will not look closely at the currency.

Below are some tips from the US Secret Service on how to detect Counterfeit Currency:


  • Look at the picture of the person on the bill.  There are specific discrepancies that will tell you the bill is fake.
  • Portraits in fake bills may appear dull, blurred, and flat, while in real currency, the portraits are sharpened contain very fine detail.
  • On a real bill the portrait stand out from the background. On a counterfeit bills, the portrait’s coloring tends to blend too much with the bill.
  • Use a magnifying glass to observe a rim of the portrait. There should be the phrase “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” repeated along the sides of the portrait

Examine the Serial Numbers

  • There should be two serial numbers located on the face of the bill on either side of the portrait.
  • Look at the color of the serial numbers and compare it to the color of the Treasury Seal. If they don’t match, the bill is likely to be fake.
  • Fake bills may have serial numbers that are not evenly spaced or that are not perfectly aligned in a row.
  • If you receive multiple bills, see if the serial numbers are the same across all bills. Counterfeiters often neglect to change serial numbers on fake bills.

Look at the borders

  • The outside borders of real money should be clear and unbroken, according to Secret Service Officials.
  • On a Federal Reserve and Treasury seals, the saw-tooth points of the borders should be sharp and well defined on genuine bills. Seals on a counterfeit bill often have uneven, blunt, or broken saw-­tooth points.
  • Look at the bleeding ink. Because of the difference  of printing methods between real and fake bills, the border ink can sometimes bleed on a fake.


  • Genuine currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Often counterfeiters try to simulate these fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on the paper. Close inspection reveals, however, that on a counterfeit note the lines are printed on the surface, not embedded in the paper.
  • Feel the texture of the paper. Authentic money is made of cotton and linen fibers which differs significantly from normal paper. Real money is made to be more durable and should feel crisp despite its age.
  • Genuine currency has slightly raised ink that is produced in the intaglio printing process.

Observing Currency Security Features

Security Threads
  • Hold the bill up to the light! For all bills except $1 and &2 dollar bills, there should be a security thread (Plastic Strip) running from top to bottom. The thread is embedded in (not printed on) the paper and it runs vertically through the clear field to the left of the Federal Reserve Seal.
  • The printing should say “USA” followed by the denomination of the bill, which is spelled out for $10 and $20 bills, presented in numerals on the $5, $50, and $100 bills. You should be able to read the inscription from both the front and back of the note.
  • Use an ultraviolet (black) light to look at security threads, high denomination bills should glow a specific color:
    • $5 bills should glow “Blue”
    • $10 should glow “Orange
    • $20 bills should glow “Green”
    • $50 bills should glow “ Yellow”
    • $100 should glow “Pink”
Check for Watermarks
  • Hold the bill up to natural light to check for a watermark, image of the person whose portrait is on the bill.
  • Watermarks can be found on $100, $50, and $20 dollar bills series 1996 or later, and on $10 bills 1999 series or later.
  • The watermark is embedded in the paper to the right of the portrait and should be visible from both sides of the bill.