BUSINESS > An
Overview of the U.S. Economy > Dollars & Cents: Fundamental
Facts About U.S. Money
The amount of counterfeit currency in circulation
in the United States is very small—only
3/100ths of 1 percent of total currency. About
75 percent of all known counterfeit currency
is seized before it reaches the public.
But it is in your interest always to examine
any currency you receive because you must assume
the loss for any counterfeit note you accept.
Perhaps the following suggestions from the
U.S. Secret Service will help you spot one.
Study genuine currency. In series 1996 or
later currency, the security features described
on pages 4–5 will be present. In addition,
look closely at the workmanship of several
features. On genuine notes, the portrait and
the picture on the back of the note stand out
sharply from the background, and the eyes in
the portrait appear lifelike. Numbers are firmly,
evenly printed and well spaced, and the fine
crisscrossing lines of the scrollwork borders
are sharp and unbroken.
On counterfeit notes, the portrait and picture
may merge with the background, the eyes or
other features on the portrait may be dull
or smudgy, or the face may seem unnaturally
white. Numbers may be out of line, poorly spaced,
and printed too light or too dark, and the
lines in the scrollwork borders may be blurred
The paper used for genuine notes is of very
high quality. The tiny red and blue fibers
embedded in the paper of genuine notes may
not be visible if the bill is badly worn or
dirty; on counterfeit bills, these threads
may be imitated by fine red and blue lines
printed or drawn on the paper. Counterfeit
currency paper may feel different or be whiter
than genuine paper.
Rubbing a bill on a piece of paper is not
a good test. Ink can be rubbed off genuine
as well as counterfeit notes.
If you're not sure whether a note is counterfeit,
consult an experienced money handler—a
bank teller, for example. If you get a counterfeit
Write your initials and the date on the
back of the bill so that you can identify
Record on a separate sheet of paper all
the details about how you got the bill:
Who gave it to you? Where and when did
you get it?
Handle the bill as little as possible
to preserve any fingerprints. Put the bill
in a protective cover such as an envelope
Contact the nearest U.S. Secret Service
office or local police. Surrender the bill
only to these agencies.
Anyone convicted of passing a counterfeit
may be fined as much as $5,000 or imprisoned
for up to 15 years.
about Reproducing Money
The law places strict limitations
on photographs or other printed
reproductions of U.S. and
foreign paper currency, checks,
bonds, stamps, and securities.
The Counterfeit Detection Act
of 1992 permits color illustration
of U.S. currency provided that
- the illustration is less
than three-quarters or
more than one and one-half
times the size, in linear
dimension, of any part
of the bill;
- the illustration is one-sided;
- any negatives, positives,
plates, or digital, magnetic,
or optical files used in
making the illustration are
destroyed, deleted, or erased
after their final use.
Similar restrictions apply
to photographs or printed reproductions
of foreign currency as well
as U.S. and foreign checks,
bonds, stamps, and securities.
In addition, these items may
be reproduced only in black
Color or black and white motion
picture films, microfilms,
videotapes, and slides of U.S.
and foreign paper currency,
securities, and other obligations
may be made for projection
or telecasting. But prints
may not be made from these
media unless the prints conform
to size and color restrictions.
For more information on the
rules about reproducing money,
contact the U.S. Secret Service
office nearest you; office locations
are available on the Web at www.treas.gov/usss or
by contacting the U.S. Secret
Service, Office of Government
Liaison and Public Affairs, 950
H Street, N.W., Suite 8400, Washington,
D.C. 20001-4518, 202/406-5708.
There are no restrictions on
printed or motion picture
reproductions of U.S. or
foreign coins. But the law
prohibits, with few exceptions,
the manufacture, sale, or
use of any token or device
that is meant to resemble
a U.S. or foreign coin and
that is issued as money.
Back to top