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How to Tell a Fake Dollar Bill From a Real One

Pamela Follett/Demand Media

Counterfeit money is big business for criminals. Most criminals know that big bills are scrutinized by retailers to discern whether or not the bills are real. For this reason, some decide to use a lot of fake dollar bills. If you come across an individual who is attempting to use a fake dollar bill, the U.S. Secret Service recommends that you “stall” to prevent the individual from leaving your presence. You should then notify the police or a local U.S. Secret Service field office.

Things You'll Need:

  • Marker
  • Light
Pamela Follett/Demand Media

Hold the dollar bill up to the light. When held up to the light, you should see a three-dimensional watermark. You should also see an inscribed security thread running down the end of the dollar bill. If you do not see the watermark and the security thread, it is an indication that the dollar bill is fake.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media

Use a counterfeit money marker to mark the dollar bill. If the dollar bill is fake, the mark will turn a certain color. The exact color of the mark will vary, depending upon the marker you are using. Read the money marker instructions to determine what color indicates a fake dollar bill.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media

Look at the images on the dollar bill. The picture of George Washington should appear real distinctive and lifelike. On a fake dollar bill, his picture will appear dull. The images on a fake dollar bill will not stand apart from the background. Instead, the pictures will blend into the background. The image edges on a fake dollar bill will not be sharp and crisp. Instead, the edges will be fuzzy or undefined.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media

Look at the serial number and the treasury seal that is on the dollar bill. If the dollar bill is real, the serial number and seal will be the exact color. If the dollar bill is fake, you will see a color difference between the two.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media

Examine the dollar bill for small red and blue fibers that are embedded within the paper. A fake dollar bill may have red and blue fibers, but the fibers will not be embedded. Upon close examination of a fake dollar bill, you will see that the red and blue marks are made with ink.

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