Counterfeit United States currency

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Counterfeit warning printed on the reverse of a 4 shilling Colonial currency in 1776 from Delaware Colony US-Colonial (DE-76)-Delaware-1 Jan 1776 REV.jpg
Counterfeit warning printed on the reverse of a 4 shilling Colonial currency in 1776 from Delaware Colony
American 18th-19th century iron counterfeit coin mold for making fake Spanish milled dollars and U.S. half dollars Counterfeiters Coin Mold Cropped.jpg
American 18th–19th century iron counterfeit coin mold for making fake Spanish milled dollars and U.S. half dollars
Anti-counterfeiting features on an old U.S. $20 bill Dollarsecurity.jpg
Anti-counterfeiting features on an old U.S. $20 bill
The security strip of a U.S. $20 bill glows under black light as a safeguard against counterfeiting US $20 under blacklight.jpg
The security strip of a U.S. $20 bill glows under black light as a safeguard against counterfeiting

Counterfeiting of the currency of the United States is widely attempted. According to the United States Department of Treasury, an estimated $70 million in counterfeit bills are in circulation, or approximately 1 note in counterfeits for every 10,000 in genuine currency, with an upper bound of $200 million counterfeit, or 1 counterfeit per 4,000 genuine notes. [1] [2] However, these numbers are based on annual seizure rates on counterfeiting, and the actual stock of counterfeit money is uncertain because some counterfeit notes successfully circulate for a few transactions.



Shortly after the Civil War, it was estimated that one third to one half of the nation's currency was counterfeit. Counterfeit money thus posed a major threat to the economy and financial system.

When the Secret Service was founded in 1865, its primary task was to minimize counterfeiting. In 2001, the U.S. Treasury estimated the prevalence of counterfeit U.S. currency in circulation at less than 0.01%. [3]

Operation Bernhard

During World War II Nazi Germany successfully produced high-quality counterfeits of American dollar and Bank of England pound notes although few ever were circulated thoroughly.


Superdollars, very high quality counterfeit one hundred-dollar bills, were some of the most widely distributed counterfeit American dollar bills and were still being produced after 2007. The Congressional Research Service has conducted a study and concluded with an accusation that North Korea was responsible for their production, but Pyongyang denied any involvement with Superdollar. [4]

Peru 2001 CB-B2 series $100 bill incident

In 2005, Peruvian Banks ceased to accept $100 bills from the 2001 series CB-B2, due to a detection in a series of counterfeit bills in Peruvian circulation. The Peruvian media reported that the notes were so well made that they were "perfect fakes". The differences between them and genuine bills were reportedly minuscule and difficult to detect. [5] According to Peruvian news reports, a printing plate from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was stolen by a criminal, with possible links to al-Qaeda, and the plate was likely used to produce the counterfeit bills. [6]

Operation Gait $100 bills

Bills forged by Anatasios Arnaouti in the UK (2005).

"Federal Reserve Bonds"

In recent years, metal boxes of fraudulent Federal Reserve Notes in astronomically high denominations (often in $100 million, $500 million, or $1 billion) and often with coupons attached have turned up in various eastern countries such as the Philippines or Malaysia. In many cases, the notes are claimed to be part of a lost trove of secretly issued Federal Reserve Notes, and are special or not known to the public due to secrecy. Also, the bonds are sometimes treated to make them look old by getting them wet and moldy. However, the Federal Reserve has never issued notes in such denominations, and has issued warnings against them on its website. [7] Additionally, there are several errors in the bonds as well as the metal boxes, many of them anachronistic. [8] The Federal Reserve Bank of New York writes that

The Federal Reserve is aware of several scams involving high denomination Federal Reserve notes and bonds, often in denominations of 100 million or 500 million dollars, dating back to the 1930s, usually 1934. In each of these schemes, fraudulent instruments are claimed to be part of a long-lost supply of recently discovered Federal Reserve notes or bonds.

Fraudsters often falsely claim that the purported Federal Reserve notes or bonds that they hold are somehow very special and are not known to the public because they are so secret. Fraudsters have attempted to sell these worthless instruments, or to redeem or exchange them at banks and other financial institutions, or to secure loans or obtain lines of credit using the fictitious instruments as collateral.


There have been several instances where people have used the fraudulent notes as legitimate currency, often resulting in arrest. In March 2006, agents from ICE and the Secret Service seized 250 notes, each bearing a denomination of $1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars) from a West Hollywood apartment. [9] The suspect had previously been arrested on federal charges for attempting to smuggle more than $37,000 in currency into the U.S. following a trip to South Korea in 2002. Much of the artwork on the notes was duplicated from the real $1000 bill, including the portrait of Grover Cleveland. [10] Another incident involving similar notes bearing a denomination each of $500,000,000, occurred in Chiasso, Switzerland in June 2009.

Materials and prevention

In the United States, counterfeiters in small operations develop the fake currency using tools which often include printers, an iron, and green colored water. [11] Upon collecting bills, the Federal Reserve checks all notes, destroying any whose appearance fails to fit that of a federal bill.

Notable American counterfeiters

See also

Related Research Articles

Seigniorage, also spelled seignorage or seigneurage, is the difference between the value of money and the cost to produce and distribute it. The term can be applied in two ways:

Federal Reserve Note Current paper currency of the United States

Federal Reserve Notes, also United States banknotes, are the banknotes currently used in the United States of America. Denominated in United States dollars, Federal Reserve Notes are printed by the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing on paper made by Crane & Co. of Dalton, Massachusetts. Federal Reserve Notes are the only type of U.S. banknote currently produced. Federal Reserve Notes are authorized by Section 16 of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and are issued to the Federal Reserve Banks at the discretion of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The notes are then put into circulation by the Federal Reserve Banks, at which point they become liabilities of the Federal Reserve Banks and obligations of the United States.

United States Note Paper money

A United States Note, also known as a Legal Tender Note, is a type of paper money that was issued from 1862 to 1971 in the U.S. Having been current for 109 years, they were issued for longer than any other form of U.S. paper money. They were known popularly as "greenbacks", a name inherited from the earlier greenbacks, the Demand Notes, that they replaced in 1862. Often termed Legal Tender Notes, they were named United States Notes by the First Legal Tender Act, which authorized them as a form of fiat currency. During the 1860s the so-called second obligation on the reverse of the notes stated:

This Note is a Legal Tender for All Debts Public and Private Except Duties On Imports And Interest On The Public Debt; And Is Redeemable In Payment Of All Loans Made To The United States.

United States five-dollar bill Current denomination of United States currency

The United States five-dollar bill ($5) is a denomination of United States currency. The current $5 bill features the 16th U.S. President (1861-65), Abraham Lincoln's portrait on the front and the Lincoln Memorial on the back. All $5 bills issued today are Federal Reserve Notes.

United States ten-dollar bill Current denomination of United States currency

The United States ten-dollar bill ($10) is a denomination of U.S. currency. The obverse of the bill features the portrait of Alexander Hamilton, who served as the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. The reverse features the U.S. Treasury Building. All $10 bills issued today are Federal Reserve Notes.

United States twenty-dollar bill Current denomination of United States currency

The United States twenty-dollar bill ($20) is a denomination of U.S. currency. Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president (1829–1837), has been featured on the front side of the bill since 1928; the White House is featured on the reverse.

United States fifty-dollar bill Current denomination of United States currency

The United States fifty-dollar bill ($50) is a denomination of United States currency. The 18th U.S. President (1869-77), Ulysses S. Grant, is featured on the obverse, while the U.S. Capitol is featured on the reverse. All current-issue $50 bills are Federal Reserve Notes.

United States one-hundred-dollar bill Current denomination of United States currency

The United States one-hundred-dollar bill ($100) is a denomination of United States currency. The first United States Note with this value was issued in 1862 and the Federal Reserve Note version was launched in 1914, alongside other denominations. Statesman, inventor, diplomat, and American founding father Benjamin Franklin has been featured on the obverse of the bill since 1914. On the reverse of the banknote is an image of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which has been used since 1928. The $100 bill is the largest denomination that has been printed and circulated since July 13, 1969, when the denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 were retired. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing says the average life of a $100 bill in circulation is 90 months before it is replaced due to wear and tear.

Large denominations of United States currency greater than $100 were circulated by the United States Treasury until 1969. Since then, U.S. dollar banknotes have only been issued in seven denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100.

United States one-dollar bill Current denomination of United States currency

The United States one-dollar bill ($1) since 1876 has been the lowest value denomination of United States paper currency. An image of the first U.S. President (1789–1797), George Washington, based on the Athenaeum Portrait, a 1796 painting by Gilbert Stuart, is currently featured on the obverse, and the Great Seal of the United States is featured on the reverse. The one-dollar bill has the oldest overall design of all U.S. currency currently being produced. The obverse design of the dollar bill seen today debuted in 1963 when it was first issued as a Federal Reserve Note.

A superdollar is a very high quality counterfeit United States one hundred-dollar bill, alleged by the U.S. Government to have been made by unknown organizations or governments. In 2011, government sources stated that these "counterfeit bills were in worldwide circulation from the late 1980s until at least July 2000" in an extradition court case.

Gold certificate certificate of ownership that gold owners hold instead of storing the actual gold

A gold certificate in general is a certificate of ownership that gold owners hold instead of storing the actual gold. It has both a historic meaning as a U.S. paper currency (1863–1933) and a current meaning as a way to invest in gold.

Counterfeit money money that was created illegally

Counterfeit money is imitation currency produced without the legal sanction of the state or government, usually in a deliberate attempt to imitate that currency and so as to deceive its recipient. Producing or using counterfeit money is a form of fraud or forgery. The business of counterfeiting money is almost as old as money itself: plated copies have been found of Lydian coins which are thought to be among the first Western coins. Before the introduction of paper money, the most prevalent method of counterfeiting involved mixing base metals with pure gold or silver. Another form of counterfeiting is the production of documents by legitimate printers in response to fraudulent instructions. During World War II, the Nazis forged British pounds and American dollars. Today some of the finest counterfeit banknotes are called Superdollars because of their high quality and likeness to the real US dollar. There has been significant counterfeiting of Euro banknotes and coins since the launch of the currency in 2002, but considerably less than for the US dollar.

National Bank Note Bank Notes World

National Bank Notes were United States currency banknotes issued by National banks chartered by the United States Government. The notes were usually backed by United States bonds the bank deposited with the United States Treasury. In addition, banks were required to maintain a redemption fund amounting to five percent of any outstanding note balance, in gold or "lawful money".

The history of the United States Dollar refers to more than 240 years since the Continental Congress of the United States authorized the issuance of Continental Currency in 1775. On April 2, 1792, the United States Congress created the United States dollar as the country's standard unit of money. The term dollar had already been in common usage since the colonial period when it referred to eight-real coin used by the Spanish throughout New Spain.

United States dollar Currency of the United States of America

The United States dollar is the official currency of the United States and its territories per the Coinage Act of 1792. One dollar is divided into 100 cents, or into 1000 mills for accounting and taxing purposes. The Coinage Act of 1792 created a decimal currency by creating the dime, nickel, and penny coins, as well as the dollar, half dollar, and quarter dollar coins, all of which are still minted in 2020.

Bills of credit

Bills of credit are documents similar to banknotes issued by a government that represent a government's indebtedness to the holder. They are typically designed to circulate as currency or currency substitutes. Bills of credit are mentioned in Article One, Section 10, Clause One of the United States Constitution, where their issuance by state governments is prohibited.

The Chiasso financial smuggling case began on June 3, 2009 near Chiasso, Switzerland, when Sezione Operativa Territoriale di Chiasso in collaboration with officers of Italian customs/financial military police detained two suspects who had attempted to enter Switzerland with a suitcase in their possession with a false bottom containing what at first appeared to be U.S. Treasury Bonds worth $134.5 billion. The two possessed 249 U.S. bonds worth $500 million each ; and the large denominations of the securities, along with accompanying bank documentation was what attracted the Italian police's attention. Large denominations are not available to the general public; only nation-states handle such amounts of money.

Multiple types of banknotes of the United States dollar have been issued, including Federal Reserve Notes, Silver Certificates, Gold certificates and United States Notes.

United States two-dollar bill Current denomination of United States currency

The United States two-dollar bill ($2) is a current denomination of U.S. currency. A portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States (1801–09), is featured on the obverse of the note. The reverse features an engraving of the painting Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull.


  1. "Press Release on Joint Report on Use and Counterfeiting of U.S. Currency Abroad". 2006-10-25.
  2. "7. Estimates of Counterfeiting", The Use and Counterfeiting of United States Currency Abroad, Part 3 (PDF), US Department of Treasury, Sep 2006, p. 70
  3. "Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco: How much money in circulation is counterfeit?". October 13, 2013.
  4. "Congressional Research Service: North Korean Counterfeiting of U.S. Currency" (PDF). 12 October 2013.
  5. "U.S. Secret Service Trains Peruvians on Fake Bills (Update1)". Bloomberg. 12 April 2005.
  6. "Es imposible controlar la legitimidad del dólar". El Comercio. April 15, 2005. Archived from the original on May 28, 2007.[ text–source integrity? ]
  7. 1 2 "New York Fed Archived Fraud Alerts – FEDERAL RESERVE BANK of NEW YORK".
  8. "USA 1934 Series Bonds". 1 January 2013.
  9. "Homeland Security Agents Seize "Billion Dollar" Bogus Federal Reserve Notes". Archived from the original on 2013-01-18. Retrieved 2014-05-09.
  10. Fake Billion Dollar Bills
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-07-10. Retrieved 2018-07-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. "Dine' Pride :: View topic – Bismarck Counterfeit Case". Retrieved 2012-10-18.
  13. Archived May 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine