Despite the advanced steps the U.S. Department of Treasury are taking, an estimated $70 million in counterfeit bills are currently in circulation. That equates to about one in every 10,000 notes being fake (source). Efforts are always underway to reduce the amount and catch those responsible, however new contributions of counterfeit money are made every day.
Fake money isn’t just a nuisance for those who accidentally receive it in a transaction. It can destroy an economy. Inflation can sky rocket, reducing the value of paper currency and driving prices through the roof. It de-legitimizes cash and runs the risk of it no longer being an acceptable form of payment. Businesses run the risk of bankruptcy when reported phony bills are confiscated without reimbursement.
Counterfeiters are getting better every day. While Euros remain one of the easiest to falsify currencies, the U.S. dollar is very near the top as well. With everything from industrial grade machinery to printers from the office supply store, criminals have replicated currency to make purchases or exchange for real bills. A new term, the “superdollar,” even references the superior quality of some newer bills. These are prized for their high quality and similarities to a real dollar.
Luckily, most traditional counterfeiting measures work well enough for an everyday person to spot a fake. Things such as raised print surfaces and milled coins to expose whether or not it’s made of a different metal. However breakthroughs in print technology in recent decades have allowed a number of other new features such as:
- Threads of microscopic numbers or text.
- Smaller images, visible under a microscope, hidden within text or other images.
- Ink or fibers only visible under UV light.
- Color-changing ink
- Alternative materials, such as plastic or a secret recipe.
Government agencies are also always patrolling for fraudulent cash production centers. Whether it’s a full bust leading to arrests and confiscating, or simply catching it in transit before it can be spent, their goal is to slow its entry into the economy. Law enforcement take action against it every day, often finding counterfeit currency in the process of investigating other crimes. The largest bust ever recorded happened as recently as November of 2016, with $30 million taken by U.S. and Peruvian authorities during a single sting operation.