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Ways to tell if the currency in your pocket is counterfeit
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During the 19th century, banks produced their own currency. Counterfeiting became a major problem because there was no set standard of currency. As a result, a large percentage of all currency being circulated was counterfeit. In 1863, the United States adopted a national, standardized currency to achieve the much-needed standardization and thwart counterfeiters. There were literally thousands of different currencies that were issued by the various banks, constituting an untenable situation.

Even today, more than 100 years after the standardization took place in our country; currency counterfeiting is a huge problem. Every time a new safeguard is incorporated into our currency by the U.S. Treasury, the counterfeiters are not far behind in developing ways to defeat it. Technology is to thank for improved currency anti-counterfeit measures, but what works for the Treasury is also available to criminals. Today's high-tech copy machines, computers and printers allow for some very realistic currency fakes. In some cases, the fake bills are very difficult to detect unless they are carefully inspected.

Most counterfeit bills are produced in denominations of 10's or 20's, but lately, counterfeiters are producing 5's because people are less likely to closely inspect the smaller denomination. Chances are, a number of counterfeit bills have passed through your hands and it is just a matter of luck if you did not get stuck with one or more of the fakes. Once you accept a counterfeit bill, neither the banks nor the government, will reimburse you for the loss. It is a good idea to check the authenticity of any currency at the moment you receive change from a business establishment or bank. I do not hesitate to carefully inspect all large bills before accepting them from a store, bank or private party.

There are four basic, quick steps to assessing whether a bill is genuine. The first is the quickest and most obvious - the feel of the paper. The paper used for U.S. currency is highly specialized and very difficult to duplicate. If you encounter a bill that does not feel right, that should be your first clue to look more closely. The second step is to look for color-shifting ink on bills larger than $5 that shows the denomination on the lower, right-hand corner. When viewing the number directly and then from an angle, the color will appear to shift from copper to green or green to black. The next step, if you are still not sure about the bill, is to hold it to the light and look for the imbedded security thread that lies vertically in the paper. It is a thin sliver that includes the denomination of the bill. All newer bills larger than $2 have this thread. The fourth step is to look for the watermark, which is on all bills larger than $2, and is visible when held to a light. Look for a duplicate (miniature) image of the portrait depicted on the bill.

Some people are reluctant or shy about examining currency they receive during business transactions. I encourage checking all bills larger than $2, since there is always a chance of ending up with a loss owing to receiving counterfeit currency. And if you do fall victim, it is important to contact your local police department to make a report. Chances are that if you encounter a fake bill, others have as well, and the police may be able to investigate and determine its origin. To be sure, counterfeiting and knowingly passing these fake bills is a federal crime - one that the government does not take lightly. The local police will conduct preliminary investigations into these crimes and then transfer the cases to the U.S. Secret Service - which is a federal law enforcement agency that falls under the United States Department of Homeland Security.

The Internet contains volumes of additional information about detecting counterfeit U.S. currency. Local police departments are also able to assist with these matters in case you have questions or have become a victim. Be sure to promptly report counterfeit crimes.