September 1, 2008 Anti-counterfeit experts added several security measures to a recently released new five dollar bill. They added more detailed watermarks, embedded a security thread containing over 650,000 tiny glass domes, and used light purple ink that fades to gray at the edges of the note in an effort to make the bills more difficult to duplicate.
Counterfeiting money is big business for criminals -- nearly $70 million of fake currency gets used daily, costing consumers millions. To crack down on this problem, new anti-forgery technologies are helping put counterfeiters out of business.
Billions of dollars in cash changes hands every day. Some of that cash isn't worth the money it's printed on. Banks won't accept it, and consumers, like store owner Tom Quick, pay the price.
"The retailer's usually the one that will end up eating the cost of the counterfeit bill," says Quick. Now, chemists at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are outsmarting counterfeiters with new technologies and designs to make money un-fakeable.
"The technology works by making it harder for personal computers to reproduce currency," says Judith Diaz Myers, a chemist at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C.
The newest redesigned $5 bill is the first to have two repositioned, more detailed watermarks. A new embedded security thread has letters and numbers in a never-before-seen alternating pattern. Tricky images prevent copies. "If a counterfeiter tries to scan or copy a note, the system actually stops that process," Myers says.
Future security features for big bills include micro-printing, very tiny type that most scanners can't see. A security thread with 650,000 tiny glass domes within the strip creates an optical illusion nearly impossible to copy.
"If a counterfeiter tries to scan or copy a note, the system actually stops that process," Myers says. What's the best way to protect yourself from a phony bill? Learn to spot a fake.
Take Myers' advice by asking these questions: "Does it look right? Does it feel right? Do you see the embedded thread? Do you see the watermark?"
Catch a fake, before it hits your wallet.
The redesigned $100 bill is still a work-in-progress. An introduction date has not been set.
FOILING COUNTERFEITERS: The United States Treasury released newly designed five dollar bills on March 13, 2008, following changes to the ten, twenty, and fifty dollar bills. The changes include several innovations intended to increase the difficulty of printing counterfeit bills. These include larger watermarks and difficult-to-reproduce tiny type called microprinting, as well as an embedded security thread that glows blue when exposed to ultraviolet light.
OTHER DESIGN CHANGES: The general design of the bill has also been changed. The border around Abraham Lincoln's portrait has been removed, and now a field of stars borders it. Purple ink has been added, bright in the center, fading to gray near the edges. In addition, a field of small yellow numbers representing the value of the bill, "05", has been printed on the left front side of the bill. The reverse features a large number five in the lower right corner, printed in high contrast ink to assist people with vision impairments in identifying the bill.
The Optical Society of America contributed to this report. This report has also been produced thanks to a generous grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.