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The presence of counterfeit currency in the stream of commerce has been around almost as long as there’s been currency and commerce. In order to keep up with counterfeiters and their ever-increasing sophistication in printing fake bills, governments have developed a variety of methods for printing money that is difficult to reproduce. One of the most common methods, MAG, or magnetic counterfeit bill detection, involves the use of specialized magnetic inks. The magnetic properties embedded in the bills can be read by ink testing devices and currency counters with magnetic detection capabilities to weed out the phony bills from the genuine ones.

What are magnetic inks?

Magnetic inks are ones with pigments containing magnetic material – typically iron oxide – similar to what is used in the coatings of audio and video tape. These inks are employed by most countries today, including the US, UK and Canada, in the printing their paper currencies.

How does magnetic counterfeit detection work?

There are a number of methods and devices used in detecting the magnetic properties in currency. The simplest devices are hand-held units and single-bill readers that require the user to rub or slide the bill across a sensor. The device emits a signal, usually audible, to indicate the presence of the magnetic properties in the bill. These simple units are easy to use and relatively effective in magnetic counterfeit detection, but are impractical for banks, businesses and others with large amounts of cash to examine.

To accommodate the need for quick and reliable identification of phony bills, most currency counters today are equipped with one or more counterfeit detection technologies of which magnetic counterfeit detection is one of the most popular. Modern money counters can scan hundreds or even thousands of bills per minute, providing users with an effective defense in the fight against counterfeiters.

How effective is magnetic counterfeit detection?

No single method of counterfeit detection is 100% foolproof, which is why most bill counters today include more than one form of detection capability. Sophisticated counterfeiters have discovered ways to incorporate magnetic inks in their printing operations to varying success. Additionally, the constant circulation of bills can degrade their magnetic properties over time, resulting on false readings by bill counters. These cases are rare, however, and the use of magnetic counterfeit detection remains among the fastest, most effective and most affordable methods available for catching fake bills.
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