Funny money? How to tell if a $100 bill is real or fake
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Is there an easy way for a regular person to find out if $100 bills (and $50s and $20s) are legit, without one of those special pen things?
Real or fake?
Now, there are numerous ways to tell a fake $100 bill without one of those “special pen things,” but I’m going to be “that guy” for a minute and point out that they are only about $5 on Amazon.com.
If you’re planning on having a yard sale or Craigslisting a bunch of stuff (two very common scenarios for counterfeiters to try to pass fake cash) this is a very, very cheap form of insurance.
Yes, they have their faults. If a bill has been through the wash, it may give a false negative, and very sophisticated fakes might still fool them.
So what can you do when someone asks you to make change for a hundred, or someone from Craigslist who’s buying your old sofa wants to pay with big bills?
The good news is that some observational skills, knowledge, and a bit of common sense will allow you to pick out most of the copycat cash.
Check your bills
Here’s a partial list of steps you can take:
Feel the texture of the bill. Take a minute and rub the paper between your hands. You may not handle as much cash as a bank teller does, but you’ve probably handled enough to pick out a poor fake.
Genuine US cash has a slightly raised ink, and you should be able to feel this by running your fingertips over it, especially if it’s a new(er) bill.
Compare it with another of the same denomination.
Just got a $20 back and you’re not sure about it? Pull another $20 out of your wallet and look at them both side by side. Since everything but $1 and $2 bills have been redesigned at least once in the last 20 years, this works best with a bill of the same series.
Check out the printing quality.
Real cash is printed with techniques that most counterfeiters are unable to duplicate. A good area to look at is the portrait. Are the lines sharp and distinct? Or do the fine details blur together and appear unsharp?
6. Write your initials and date in the white border area of the suspected counterfeit note.
7. DO NOT handle the counterfeit note. Place it inside a protective cover, a plastic bag, or envelope to protect it until you place it in the hands of an IDENTIFIED Secret Service Agent.
8. Surrender the note or coin ONLY to a properly identified police officer or a Secret Service Special Agent, or mail it to your nearest U.S. Secret Service field office.
The Treasury also notes that there’s no reward — or reimbursement — when you turn in a fake $100 bill (or any non-legit currency), and adds, “but it is doing the ‘right thing’ to help combat counterfeiting.”