Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce

Business Alert Announcement – Counterfeit Bills Increase in Local Area

Counterfeit Bill Circulation Increases in Area

Thank you to Chief Edward Lacey of the Ellijay Police Department for the following information: 

Working with our local banks we have found a recent increase in the passing of counterfeit bills in our area and would like to warn local merchants.

These bills are specifically $20s and $100s.  We have included pictures of a few of these counterfeit bills below.

As you can tell from the pictures, these bills are very difficult to detect as counterfeit.

One telltale sign is that they may have the same serial number as another bill being passed at the same time. Some of the bills passed the “detection pen” test (refer to bills in pictures which have been marked). They do not have the security strip – although the 100 does have a printed blue line which is made to look like a security strip. The holograms in the bill are not present.

The edges of the printing of the words and lines are not crisp but have blurred edges.

Things to look for in a counterfeit:

  1. Compare the suspect bill to known US currency:  Feel and compare the thickness and texture of the bills.
  2. Hold the bill up to the light. For all bills except $1 and $2 dollar bills, there should be a security thread (plastic strip) running from top to bottom.
    1. The thread is embedded in (not printed on) the paper and runs vertically through the clear field to the left of the Federal Reserve Seal. On authentic bills, this should be easily visible against a light source.
    2. The printing should say “USA” followed by the denomination of the bill, which is spelled out for $10 and $20 bills but presented in numerals on the $5, $50 and $100 bills. These threads are placed in different places on each denomination to prevent lower-denomination bills being bleached and reprinted as higher denominations.
    3. You should be able to read the inscriptions from both the front or back of the note. Also, it should only be visible against a light source.
  3. Use an ultraviolet (black) light to look at security threads. Plastic strips in high-denomination bills should glow a specific color.
    1. The $5 dollar bill should glow blue; the $10 bill should glow orange; the $20 bill should glow green; the $50 bill should glow yellow; the $100 bill should glow pink.
    2. If your bill remains white under a black light, it is likely a counterfeit.
  4. Check for watermarks. Use natural light to see if your bill bears an image of the person whose portrait is on the bill.
    1. Hold the bill up to a light to check for a watermark. A watermark bearing the image of the person whose portrait is on the bill can be found on all $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills series 1996 and later, and on $5 bills series 1999 and later.
    2. The watermark is embedded in the paper to the right of the portrait and should be visible from both sides of the bill.
  5. Tilt the bill to examine the color-shifting ink. Color shifting ink is ink that appears to change color when the bill is tilted.
    1. Color-shifting ink can be found on $100, $50 and $20 dollar bills series 1996 and later, and on $10 dollar bills series 1999 and later.
    2. $5 and lower bills do not yet have this feature. The color originally appeared to change from green to black, but it goes from copper to green in recent redesigns of the bills.
  6. Examine the micro-printing. This includes small words or numbers that are hardly visible to the naked eye and cannot be read without a magnifying glass.
    1. Beginning in 1990, very tiny printing was added to certain places (which have periodically been changed since then) on $5 and higher denomination bills.
    2. Don’t worry about a specific location. Since micro-printing is hard to duplicate, counterfeits usually tend not to have any.  Some locations where micro printing may be found:
      i. $100 bills –  “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” rests on Benjamin Franklin’s jacket collar, there’s a “USA 100” around the blank space containing the portrait watermark, “ONE HUNDRED USA” along the golden quill, and “100” repeating along the borders of the bill.
      ii. $50 bills – To the left of the portrait, there’s a “FIFTY,” “USA,” and “50” inside two of the blue stars to the left of the portrait (one just to the left of the Federal Reserve seal and one just to the right). There’s also “FIFTY” repeated within the border of the note.
      iii. $20 Bills – There’s a “USA20” along the border of the first three letters of the blue “TWENTY USA” ribbon, to the right of Jackson’s portrait.  “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 20 USA 20 USA” appears in black in the border below the Treasurer’s signature (there’s also a “20” between the two and zero, and “USA” in the circle of the zero)
      iv. $10 Bills – “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “TEN DOLLARS” reside below the portrait above “HAMILTON” as well as inside the borders of the note.  “USA 10” is repeated beneath the torch.
      v. $5 Bills – Along the left and right borders are the words “FIVE DOLLARS”.  There’s an “E PLURIBUS UNUM” at the top of the shield within the Great Seal and “USA” repeated in between the columns of the shield.  On the back, “USA FIVE” appears along one edge of the purple number five.  The actual Lincoln Memorial has state names engraved on it, which also appear on the back of the bill.
    1. Counterfeits with micro-printing tend to have blurred letters or numbers. On a genuine bill, the micro-printing will be crisp and clear.

For additional information on detecting counterfeit bills, visit