How to Handle Counterfeit Bills from a Customer Perspective

How to Handle Counterfeit Bills from a Customer Perspective

Counterfeit money has long been a problem in modern society. It’s a simple concept: if money is just paper, then surely it may be recreated.

Not only is this dangerous to the economy, but it’s also incredibly illegal. However, this hasn’t deterred the common criminal.

Almost every year, banking officials and the Secret Service are implementing new protocols to make counterfeiting money more difficult.

It’s estimated that the Secret Service has removed around 90 percent of all known fake bills that were in circulation. Unfortunately, this still leaves 10 percent that may find their way to you. 

So, what do you do with counterfeit money? Do you keep it? Do you turn it in? These are all great questions, and the decision you may make could drastically affect your future. Knowing what to do with counterfeit money is an important skill.

Regardless of how you receive the money, you must avoid confrontation with whoever passed or gave you the bills. They may not be responsible for their creation, but they may well know that it’s a fake bill. Avoid a dangerous situation at all costs.

With these questions in mind, this article was created to help you understand how to handle counterfeit bills from a customer’s perspective. 

Many people falsely believe that their chances of running into counterfeit bills are relatively low. 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago conducted a study in 2010 to measure the number of counterfeit bills that were in circulation at the time. The results will shock you.

They concluded that the total value of counterfeits in circulation at any moment was approximately $60 to $80 million. That’s a ton of money that shouldn’t exist. The majority of this money was passed around within the U.S while a small percentage was passed along internationally.

In more relatable terms, about one out of every 4,000 bills is a counterfeit. This means that, at some point in your life, you’re going to likely run into fake money. Take into account how often you exchange money with a business or another person. You’re likely exchanging bills several times a day and may receive 10 different bills in a single day. This means that your chances of running into fake money are extremely high even within a few years.

There are several ways you may run into counterfeit bills as a consumer:

  • Through a personal exchange of money with someone.
  • Through a business that (hopefully) unknowingly passed you the bills. 

Because of the high likelihood that you’ll eventually run into fake money at some point, it’s incredibly important that you know what to look for. 

Spotting counterfeit money may seem like a complex task to accomplish. The Secret Service and the banking world go through tremendous efforts to ensure that counterfeiting money is extremely difficult.

How to Spot Counterfeit Money

This means that fake bills you may find in the wild will be made with a lot of effort behind them. If you’re receiving them as a consumer, that means they’ve likely already been passed to someone else beforehand. This means these bills will be particularly well made.

Typically, 20 bills and 100 bills are the most commonly counterfeited bills. Consider taking an extra-hard look at these bill if it’s suspected to be counterfeit. 

However, some giveaways will make identifying the bills relatively easy. It’s not as complicated as you may think. 

  • Take note of the portrait on the bill.
  • Pictures on the authentic currency will stick out against the background. Fake money portraits will often be dull and look flat. 
  • Look at the border of the bill. The lines around the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken. Fake money may have lines that are blurred or unclear. This can be true in all aspects of fake money. Often, slight blurs and fades within a counterfeit bill will be the easiest giveaway.
  • Take note of the material the bill is made from. An authentic currency is made from cotton pulp. This gives it increased durability over the traditional paper. Counterfeit money will often be not as durable. It may be a bit ‘flimsier’ than authentic money.
  • Check out the watermark. The watermark is an obvious security feature on bills. When it’s held up to the light, an image can be seen within the paper. Expect this image to be the same as the portrait of the bill in most cases. A counterfeit bill may not have this watermark, or it may not be appropriately appearing. This may happen if the bill is thinner than it should be.
  • Take note of the Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals. The logo and seal should be clear and sharp. Counterfeit bills may have their logos and seals appear uneven or dull.

If you find that you have a counterfeit bill in your possession, don’t fret.

Carefully handle the counterfeit note so as to not damage it. When you turn it in to authorities, you’ll want it to be preserved as much as possible. This preservation will help law enforcement identify its source more easily. Knowing what to do with counterfeit money will make your life easier.

If you’re interested in technology to help you along the way, counterfeit bill detectors are popular amongst businesses and individuals alike. 

If you find that you have found fake money, don’t be stupid – turn it in. 

There are serious consequences for passing fake money. This is especially true if you pass the fake money knowing that it’s fake. 

If you pass fake money, two things may occur. 

If you know you have a counterfeit bill in your possession and you pass it on, you’ve just committed a felony.

This is classified as intentional fraud. It’s such a big deal to the U.S government that the Secret Service directly handles these cases. They’ll confiscate all bills that could be fake as well as any equipment they think may be used to create it.

Laptops, computers, hard drives, and other electronic equipment will soon vanish from your residence. Not that it matters, because you’ll likely be in jail.

The reason this penalty is severe is that the effects that fake money has on the economy. If it weren’t severely punished, there would be more incentives for criminals to attempt to create this money.

If there were to be a sudden influx in the amount of money in the economy’s circulation, there could be a detrimental impact on society. Inflation will occur, wages will stagnate, and the country will quickly run into the ground. This is what makes large scale money printing so dangerous. 

That’s why it’s always better to turn the bill in to authorities if you discover you have one.

You may unintentionally pass a fake bill. It’s still illegal. However, it’s only counted as fraud if it can be proven that you passed the bill intentionally.

If you unintentionally pass the bill, you’ll still likely have a visit from a police officer or Secret Service agent.

It should be noted that putting a fake bill into an ATM to deposit it will also count as passing the bill. If a counterfeit bill is found within an ATM, the money won’t be credited to your account and you’ll have committed a crime at the same time. 

In any case, being able to identify a counterfeit bill will be extremely helpful to you in your quest of avoiding trouble.

If you’re wondering what to do with counterfeit money, the answer is simple: Turn it in to a police officer or other law enforcement agency, of course! 

However, it may be more complicated than that.

As a customer, if you receive fake money, don’t confront the passer. Don’t return it to them. Don’t let them know that you know they’ve just passed you a counterfeit bill. If you do, you may find yourself in a dangerous situation.

Before you walk away, take note of the passer’s description as well as the description of the people they’re with. Law enforcement officers will look for the following descriptors:

  • Skin color
  • Age
  • What they were wearing
  • Jewelry/tattoos
  • Type and color of vehicle they’re driving
  • The license plate number of associated vehicles.

Do your best to mentally jot these descriptions down. If possible, try to get a video or image of the passer. However, do not let them see you acting suspiciously. The last thing you want to do is cause a dangerous situation for you and those around you.

After you’ve noted the description, contact your local police department or the United States Secret Service field office. 

Once you’ve contacted them, initial and date the counterfeit bill in the white border areas. This will alert anyone else who encounters this bill that you’ve had it in your possession and recognized it as fake money. 

After this has been done, put the properly identified counterfeit currency into a plastic bag or envelope to avoid further interaction with it. Then, surrender it to a law enforcement officer.

In summary, finding a counterfeit bill may not be as uncommon as you believe. However, it’s not difficult to know what to do with counterfeit money.

With 1 in every 4,000 banknotes likely being counterfeit, you’re almost guaranteed to run into one at some point in your lifespan. Be prepared for this moment by understanding how to spot fake money and what to do with it afterward. 

Remember, it’s always illegal to pass a counterfeit note. This is true even if it’s unintentional. Always be on the lookout for fake money and always deal with it appropriately.

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