As improvements in printing technology have advanced, the variety of ways the United States Treasury Department has implemented these advances has increased to make it easier than ever before to identify counterfeit money. Most counterfeiters utilize basic printing processes that cannot come close to the quality of legitimate notes, and most observant people can identify counterfeit money just by the feel of it in their hands. This is because the money that is made by the government is printed on a paper that is only used for this purpose and not sold commercially, making the feel of “real” money unique. There are those criminals that are highly skilled counterfeiters that make it more difficult to identify counterfeit money, but there are measures to identify even the best forgeries.
One of the best ways to identify counterfeit money is to examine the overall quality of the bill in question closely. Compare the bill to several others of the same denomination that were obtained from different sources. The print of a legitimate currency note is crisp and sharp with extremely fine detail – you can often identify counterfeit money by printing that is blurred or lacking a crispness of print features.
About 20 years ago the United States Treasury Department began adding security features to all newly printed currency that makes it easy to identify counterfeit money, even for the average citizen. Embedded into bills in denominations of $5 or higher that were created after 1990 there is a plastic security strip inserted into each note. When held up to a bright light the plastic strip will say “USA” and the denomination of the note itself. Also embedded into official currency are red and blue fibers, which on counterfeit currency is usually printed onto the paper rather than contained within. Another easy way to identify counterfeit money is by the presence of a watermark that is present on currency denominations of $10 and higher made after 1996, and on denominations of $5 made from 1999 to the present. The watermark is placed on currency to the right side of the main portrait, can be seen easily and is an excellent way to identify counterfeit money.
Luckily, the need to be an expert to identify counterfeit money is a skill that is rarely in demand these days. It is estimated that over 99.9% of all currency being circulated in the United States is legitimate, and that the majority of counterfeit money that is made is initiated by those lacking the skill to create currency that is close in detail to the real thing.