Counterfeit Strategy | National Geographic

the security features of US currency are

constantly redesigned at Secret Service

headquarters in Washington DC agents see

a never-ending array of clever


counterfeiters use to keep up one of the

most difficult features for a

counterfeiter to copy is also the most

basic the paper it's printed on genuine

US currency is a cotton and linen

combination that actually has a very

distinct feel and there are red and blue

security fibers that are mixed in with

the currency paper as it's being made

woven into the paper is another tough

detail to reproduce a fluorescent thread

printed with microscopic text on a

genuine bill security thread should

fluoresce a particular color typically

on the counterfeits their security

threads do not for us at all to avoid

having to reproduce real currency paper

some counterfeiters use a simple but

clever technique they bleach lower

denomination notes and reprint them at

higher values

with a little bleach and some ink a $5

note can suddenly become a hundred even

if a counterfeiter gets the paper right

and has a detailed printing plate a

final challenge is hidden in the ink

itself the US Treasury uses a

proprietary pigment called optical

variable ink which changes color in

different light counterfeiters often

mimic this effect using the most basic

materials like drugstore glitter good

counterfeit notes can be passed one at a

time they only need to be good enough to

fool the victim but even bad notes are

sometimes passed in bulk through a

distribution scheme known as the black

money scam the counterfeiter approaches

a victim saying he needs to offload a

large sum of what he claims is genuine

currency at a discount as low as 20

cents on the dollar

he says the money has been dyed black to

avoid detection by police

the victim is shown as an example how

the bills can be completely clean in a

matter of seconds and that'll be done

with a genuine bill that was dyed black

cleaned in front of them and given to

them as an example victims free to go

spend it they'll feel comfortable

they'll gather as much money as they can

afford to come back and buy what they

think is more genuine currency dyed in

black when the victim pays for the

currency they're given a special

solution to clean the notes often a

simple combination of water and vitamins

only to discover the cash is all

counterfeit it's the price to pay for

doing business in the criminal world US

currency is revamped every 7 to 10 years

and the Bureau of Engraving and printing

consults with the Secret Service to make

sure the new notes are as difficult as

possible to counterfeit with each new

design many of the first and best

counterfeits come from Columbia

counterfeits coming out of Columbia have

we haven't seen those for for a long

time the Colombian counterfeiters

counterfeiting very large volumes using

more sophisticated printing presses and

that alone gives it a much better

quality than often what we see on

digital counterfeits that come off of

inkjet printers they are definitely

above average quality counterfeiters