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How to Tell if Money is Counterfeit

Updated on July 31, 2013

There is a lot of counterfeit money in circulation nowadays, and sadly the counterfeits are becoming even harder to spot than in the past. This means that if you are not wary, you could end up getting stung. If you are a store owner, or handle money, then you will certainly need to know a variety of the most common techniques which will allow you to tell whether money is counterfeit or not. In this article I am going to run you through a few of the main techniques.

Firstly, let’s deal with coins. In the past not many people counterfeited coins as the value wasn’t really there. However, nowadays they are copied a lot, and thus you will want to know how to tell if money is counterfeit when it comes to coins. Sometimes you can just ‘feel’ if a coin is counterfeit or not, it is simply lighter than what you are used to. If it feels slightly odd, then take a good long hard look at it. One of the best ways to spot counterfeit money in this case is to look at the quality of the detail in the coin. Often the processes used to craft the coin are not as sophisticated, and thus they won’t have as much detail as other coins out there. You may notice that the two sides of the coin aren’t even in alignment (the majority of counterfeit coins are like this). If you suspect that a coin is counterfeit then do not accept it. Moreover, some counterfeit coins are actually made of soft metals, for easier production, and hence can actually be cut quite easily. Having a real coin to compare with is the easiest, as there aren't a lot of 'sure' tests for the coins, but thankfully they are often easy to spot ... assuming that people just won't look closely.

Let’s discuss counterfeit notes a little now, as the process and investments made in producing these are far more advanced. There a number of different techniques that will help with how to spot counterfeit money. Many businesses have a counterfeit money detector in place, or at the very least a money pen. These are both good techniques which can be used to spot whether money is fake or not. Often businesses will try this on any note over a certain value, so don’t be embarrassed if it happens to you!

If you don’t have these techniques available to you, then there are many other ways which can be used if you are looking how to spot counterfeit money. One of the top ways is by simply feeling the money. We have all handled enough cash in our lives to know exactly what ‘cash’ should feel like. Genuine notes have raised ink, something which does appear on cheaper counterfeits. If the note feels strange to you, then it is most likely counterfeit.


If you are still unsure, then you should try comparing the dollar bill with another of the same value. This should help you spot almost instantly whether bill is fake or not. Often, counterfeit notes are made with slightly different dimensions, so all you need to do is hold them side by side.

Counterfeit notes generally have a lot less detail than standard notes, when examined closely, so this is worth bearing in mind. One of the best ways to look for counterfeit notes however is to keep an eye out for colored threads that are normally woven into the paper (or foil, as in the UK). Many counterfeit notes include these colors, but if you look closely they will be placed on top of the paper instead of being woven in. Also, many of the silver foil inserts do not actually run through fake money (although some very good fakes manage this) ... so hold it up to the light to see the graphics and silver strip run inside of the note.

Finally you can check the serial numbers of the money you have been handed. Often serial numbers of counterfeit notes will appear slightly ‘off’, for example, they won’t be evenly spaced. As you can probably guess, these notes are best avoided.

Hopefully this has provided you with the information you need when it comes to how to tell if money is counterfeit or not. If you bear just a few of these techniques in mind, you will quickly learn to spot (subconsciously) whether a bill or coin has been faked. At the very least, make sure to keep a counterfeit detection pen with you if you plan to deal with a lot of cash, they are affordable and could save you some expensive mistakes.

Have you ever been giver counterfeit money?

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    • Doodlehead profile image

      Doodlehead 3 years ago from Northern California

      As a clerk at a check-out stand was checking my money one day, I asked what they woul do if the money was counterfeit, They said they would call the police and I woul be arrested. (California)

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 4 years ago from Central United States

      Even though we are far south of the Canadian border a lot of their change passes hands locally. I have even received it from banks and stores. Most of the time I catch it because it is lighter in weight. The value is different so if you pass it to a bank you're in trouble. Legally if you don't tell them it is Canadian money you can be charged with passing counterfit money.

      I learned a long time ago, I won't even accept large bills from a bank unless I see them use a pen on it before I take it. It helps when you are using a bill to show the mark the bank made. After I am a ways away I laugh sometimes because even the marks can be counterfitted.

      A local friend sold a car for case. Nine of the hundred dollar billshe received were counterfit. Believe me that was no laughing matter to him , his wife or children. He will never accept large bills again without testing them.

      This definitely has value to my friends and fans. Sharing, up and interesting.

    • algarveview profile image

      Joana e Bruno 4 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hi, Brett, I had no idea that there are counterfeit coins... That is really something... I pay no attention whatsoever to coins... Anyway, great tips, in this day and age, we really need to be careful, we never know... Voted up and useful and sharing! Take care!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting and useful read. I didn't know coins were counterfeited too. In India, we normally go short on coins that have a value in excess of the actual value of the coins as the coins are hoarded for illegal melting to get the metal.

      The issue of counterfeit notes is a worldwide phenomena I guess so a very important read that I'm sharing too.

      Voted up, useful and shared.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      @ cclitgirl--the money pens make a mark like a yellow highlighter pen. It is faint and barely shows up. However, if the mark is black, instead, the bill is fake.

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      I normally check by smelling the money.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 4 years ago from Western NC

      Great tips here! I've always wanted to know how those money pens work. I've seen people use them but I don't know what the pen is supposed to do. Hmm...will have to look into that.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Good points, all. Thanks for sharing this important information with everyone.

      Voted up, interesting, useful and shared.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      I know technology has helped advance crime, but like so many other people, I believe this'll never happen to me. However, you're right and it could. I think your suggestion of comparing a bill with another would be the best way for the common person to see if its 'fake'. Great awareness hub.

      Voted up, useful, interesting and shared.

    • Deepak Chaturvedi profile image

      Deepak Chaturvedi 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Good information and also useful hub thanks to share.

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      This was useful because I never even give it a thought when I receive money and assume it is real. I'm glad I rarely use cash these days because it helps minimize this risk. Thanks for the helpful tips. Voted up and sharing!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Really?......There's a lot of counterfeit money in circulation? I had no idea....This is interesting as well as surprising....Usually, we can notice that tellers and sales reps are checking paper money, with specific tools that will alert them to fake bucks. I haven't seen this being done for quite a while.

      I do believe, as you say, that it is probably much easier for the crooks to recreate money. With all of the incredible technology available....although, I know nothing about these things....I'm happy to know how to sign onto HP... I am 98% techno-challenged.

      Really great hub ...important info and I thank you!...UP+++

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I don't know that I've every encountered counterfeit money, though have seen them posted in stores. Your hub helps me to avoid them even further. Voting this Up and Interesting. SHARED.

    • the girls profile image

      the girls 4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Helpful hub! We need to be aware what's a counterfeit or not. We don't want to lose our hard earned money to crooks. Voted up!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have been in stores when bills of $20 or higher are tested with a money pen. I can't blame the establishments because it would be their loss if the money was counterfeit. Of course it would also be a loss to the person who inadvertently was given some and unknowingly tried to pass it on. It is best to be aware as this hub nicely stated. Up votes and sharing.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      This is quite interesting. It seems easy enough to spot fake money, but if people are like me, they are so busy at the time they are handling money that they don't take the time to inspect it prior to accepting it. Or (and this is my case), I feel it would be embarrassing to inspect the money in front of someone I am doing business with. That person might beg the question of whether or not I trust them. But, inspecting the money using your techniques is the only way to be sure I'm protected from accepting counterfeit money. This is a wonderful hub. I'm excited to share it with others who may also want to know how to spot counterfeit money.

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