(Gillette, Wyo.) On Wednesday, we learned that the Secret Service was joining an investigation
with the Gillette Police Department over several counterfeit bills that
have been discovered circulating Campbell County. We talked to Special
Agent in Charge Kerri O'Grady, who works with the Denver bureau of the
Secret Service, about how to spot counterfeits yourself.
Since the Secret Service doesn't comment on ongoing investigations, we
don't know what exactly was "faked" about the notes found this past week in
Gillette. But Agent O'Grady says that there are so many different ways that
people fake currency, it's easier to familiarize yourself with the actual
thing, instead of the forgeries.
"I don't advocate for the counterfeit pens. They can give both a false
positive and a false negative reading," she said. "The best way to spot
counterfeits is to really know what true currency looks like."
The Secret Service and the U.S. Treasury both have guides on their website
explaining how your cash should actually look. There's a PDF you can check
illustrations of the special security measures taken on new money, printed
after the redesigns in 2004.
- Check the portrait of the president, the Treasury seal, the border
design. They should all be crisp and clear, and stand out from the
- Look at the serial numbers. They should be the exact same color as the
Treasury seal, and neatly and evenly spaced and aligned.
- Paper money isn't paper. It's 25% linen and 75% cotton, giving it a
different weight and feel than a piece of paper.
- Real currency has a security thread or a 3-D security ribbon woven in
vertically that will show up when you hold it to the light.
- "New money" -- currency printed in the last ten years or so, has a
watermark you can see from both sides in the light.
- The color of the printing on the bill will shift from copper to green
depending on how you hold it.
A lot of the calls the Secret Service gets about possible counterfeits are
people unfamiliar with the older style of cash -- the kind that has the
smaller portraits of Jackson, Lincoln, etc. The Secret Service calls them
the "small faces."
"People are so used to the newer currency that they get older notes and
think they received a counterfeit," says O'Grady. "But you can always call
the Department of Treasury and the Secret Service office with any
The Secret Service has been running their "Know Your Money" campaign since
1937. If you're unfamiliar with "old money," check out this National
Archives film from 1939 that explains it all:
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