Wednesday, May 23, 2007


The last place you’d expect to be handed a counterfeit bill is at the bank. But that’s exactly what happened to me yesterday.

The teller gave me the envelope. I thumbed through the bills, counting them...and one of them felt wrong. though it had been through the washing machine. Looked wrong, too. Instead of the razor-sharp intaglio engraving of genuine currency, it was fuzzy.

Hmmm. Something’s not right.

I held the bill up to the light to check the watermark. Instead of the expected image of Benjamin Franklin, this bill had...Abraham Lincoln?

Hmmm. Something’s definitely not right.

I handed the bill back and told the teller it was counterfeit. She looked at it and agreed, immediately giving me a replacement. I showed her how a moistened finger smudged the ink on the bogus bill. Real bills don’t do that.

I’m guessing that someone bleached a five-spot, then printed off a C-note on it. [Update: This technique is mentioned in Wikipedia, and it appears the Treasury now plans to redesign the $5 note as a preventive measure.] That way, you'd at least have the blue and red fibers in the paper, and a watermark - the wrong one, but who bothers to look? Of course, all of the other subtle anti-counterfeiting measures would be missing.

This is the second time in seventeen months that someone has tried to pass me a bogus bill. But the last time, it was at a supermarket, and it was only a double sawbuck. This time it was a C-note, right from the bank.

You can’t trust anybody these days, I guess...

How well do you know your currency? Could you be a victim of counterfeiters?

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