Fake money a problem everywhere

By: Alex P. Vidal

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers

ILOILO City Police Office (ICPO) chief, Colonel Martin Defensor Jr.’s appeal for Ilonggos to be wary of fake peso bills being circulated for Yuletide Season is timely.

Fake money or its circulation is a problem anywhere.

And it has been in circulation even during normal seasons.

Anyone can be a victim: students, professionals, vendors, businessmen, government workers, and even those dealing with currency transactions.

Fraud fighter Sean Trundy has been exhorting us to learn to know how to spot fake money, for it is a skill that every cash handler should know.

Anywhere in the world today, creating counterfeit money is becoming easier and easier-and thus, more accessible to a larger number of people willing to risk jail for a few pesos or dollars now that we have advances in desktop publishing and laser printer technology.




It was learned that the most common amateur counterfeits are usually 20 and 100 bills.

Trindy has warned that while “professional” counterfeiters use sophisticated counterfeiting techniques that can fool the naked eye upon examination, the majority of counterfeits we might encounter in circulation can be spotted if we know what to look for and are willing to make a close examination.

For dollar bills, here are some of the ways that money handlers should watch out, based on Trundy’s tips:

There’s the color-shifting ink.  Modern bills are imprinted with overt (or visible) security features that help identify counterfeit money.

The most prominent is reportedly the color-shifting ink used on bills produced after 2006. To identify the color-shifting ink, Trundy suggests that we look at the lower right-hand corner of the bill’s face.

Notice the printed numeral and tilt the bill back and forth. Depending on the angle at which you view the bill the color will shift from grey to green and back again. This is the first step in identifying fake money, he added.

Color shifting ink, Trundy said, is very difficult to replicate and usually cannot be done on a laser printer.




Another thing is Intaglio Printing. This type of printing reportedly uses intricately carved plates and extremely heavy printing presses to “imprint” the currency.  Imprinting means to physically alter the surface of the paper the money is printed on.

This creates a distinctive raised or ruff feeling to the currency that you won’t find on currency printed without intaglio printing. Look at the image of Benjamin Franklin on the $100 dollar bill.

The very fine details along his eye and face as well as around the oval surrounding his face are nearly impossible for a laser printer to replicate.

“Of course, that is a good spot to rub your finger or thumb along the bill to feel the “raised ridges” that result from intaglio printing,” said Trundy.

Let be wary of the counterfeit pen sold cheaply to many store owners.

This pen reportedly serves only one purpose and that is to determine the type of paper used to create the fake money. U.S. currency is printed on cotton-based paper. Paper typically milled for use in copiers and laser printers and such is made from wood pulp.

The counterfeit pen is reportedly filled with iodine. The iodine reacts with the wood pulp and turns from brown to black.

If the pen does not turn brown the paper is made of cotton.

This pen will only tell us if the paper is not made from wood pulp.  It will not tell us if the bill, printed on non-wood pulp paper, is fake.

Also the watermarks.  Every modern U.S. currency reportedly contains a watermark security feature.  By holding the bill up to the light we should be able to see a watermark next to the portrait of the president on the bill.

And the security thread. Look for a woven thread running from the top to the bottom of the bill. This thread is not printed “onto” the paper, rather it is woven into and part of the underlying paper the bill is printed on.

Trundy said this is very difficult for counterfeiters to replicate in fake money.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)