After browsing the aisles of your favorite store, you pay for your purchases with a crisp $100 dollar bill. Unfortunately, right after handing the money to her, the woman behind the counter informed you that the bill was not real. Not only are you now out $100, but you could be facing some serious charges because you tried to spend the currency in a store.
While this scenario sounds far-fetched, it happens quite a lot. The only way to avoid this situation is to avoid being swindled yourself, which leads many people to ask, how do I spot a fake 100-dollar bill?
The quickest way to check for authenticity is to hold the bill up to the light and check for the watermark portrait. Additionally, you can look for the watermark strip, which should glow pink under a UV light.
Keep reading to learn more about counterfeit money and how to spot a fake bill from a mile away.
What Is Counterfeit Money?
Counterfeit money is money that is not real. Real money is ordered and printed by the government, while counterfeit money is printed by forgers using one of the many forging techniques. Counterfeiting is not a new concept either, and one of the oldest methods of counterfeiting was when people would shave (or clip) metal off real coins to melt them down and make new coins. Because of this, many people started weighing coins to make sure they were worth their weight in precious metal.
Although money has become more advanced in its battle against forgery and often contains multiple safety features, counterfeiters are still highly active. Every year thousands of dollars of counterfeit money get seized, but unfortunately, the people who end up taking the fall for it are not always the ones printing the fake money.
Can I Get in Trouble for Using Counterfeit Money?
Obviously, people who knowingly use fake money will get in trouble, but what about people who are unaware they are using counterfeit cash?
The laws surrounding this crime are convoluted and change from location to location, but individuals who knowingly use fake money can be charged with a litany of crimes, including forgery and fraud.
Many of these convictions carry hefty fines and quite a few years in federal prison. Although the keyword here is knowing, it can often be hard to prove that you did not know the money was fake. That being said, the prosecutor must also prove that you knew the money was fake, which they would have a hard time doing if that was not true.
Still, the best way to avoid the situation, and the risk, is to arm yourself with the skills you need to spot counterfeit money.
How Can You Tell If a $100 Bill Is Real?
Because forgers are constantly inventing new ways to make counterfeit money, bills are redesigned every few decades, which results in different safety features for different time periods.
2009 – 2022
- There should be a microprint on Franklin’s collar that reads, “The United States of America.” You should also be able to find “USA 100” and “100 USA” in the area around the portrait.
- When you hold the bill up to the light, a ghost image of Ben Franklin should appear in the right-hand corner. It will be inside of a white circle and not visible unless you are holding the bill up to a light source.
- The other watermark to look for is the strip on the left-hand side of Franklin, which should appear when you hold the bill up to the light. This strip should also glow pink under UV light.
- There should be a blue ribbon woven into the bill with small 3-D images of the number 100 and bells. Additionally, when you move the bill, the 3-D images on the ribbon should move as well. The ribbon will never peel away from, or be glued onto, the bill.
- To the right of Franklin, you should see two copper inkwells. These inkwells should change color as you move the bill, and a green image of a bell should become visible.
- To the right of the inkwell, you will find a copper-colored “100” that should also change color as you move the bill.
- The serial numbers should align with the series of the bill. Locate the area that says SERIES 2009 and check it against the serial number. Bills that say “SERIES 2009” should have a serial number that starts with the letter J. Bills that say “SERIES 2009 A” should have a serial number that starts with the letter L.
- Finally, give Franklin a shoulder rub. Seriously. The ink on his shoulder should feel raised and textured under your finger.
Although bills made prior to 2009 are slowly being removed from circulation, there are still many real ones left. To find out if a pre-2009 bill is real, check for the security features listed below.
- Bills should not feel like “paper” and should have textured raised ink.
- To the left of Franklin’s photograph, you should see a security thread when you hold the bill up to the light. This thread should contain the word “USA” and the number 100 multiple times and glow pink under a UV light.
- The older bills will also have micro printing, and you should be able to find the phrase “USA100” inside the 100 in the bottom left-hand corner. Additionally, you should be able to find “The United States of America” in Franklin’s coat.
- If you look at the 100 in the bottom right-hand corner, you should notice that it shifts from green to black as you move the bill back and forth.
- Another watermark to look for while holding the bill up to the light is the portrait of Franklin on the right-hand side.
- If the edges of the bill are blurry, you have a fake. For some reason, during the counterfeiting process, the familiar crisp lines of the 100 bills often blur.
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