Counterfeit money: How to tell the difference

What to look for when determining if money is counterfeit.

Please be aware, people are trying to pass counterfeit money through the system. It happened right in my own community. If you handle money often or own a business some of these helpful tips by Michigan State University Extension might help you determine if the money is real or counterfeit.

Some of the more prominent ways to tell if the bill is fake are that the paper will have a rough feel and have somewhat different coloring, more of a pink and blue tone; the outline of a face that you can see on the bottom right hand corner, when looking in the light, will be missing and the line will be gone.  

According to our local Century Bank and Trust here are some safety features to look for when checking for authenticity:


Tilt your twenty dollar note to see if the numeral 20 in the lower right corner on the front of the bill changes color from copper to green. The color shift is more dramatic in the redesigned currency, making it easier for people to check their money.



Hold the bill to light and look for the watermark, or faint image, similar to the large portrait. The watermark is part of the paper itself and can be seen from both sides of the bill. 

Security Thread

Appearing on the front of the bill are two American eagle symbols in the background to the left of President Andrew Jackson’s portrait is representative of those drawn and sculpted during his time period. The smaller green metallic eagle to the lower right of the portrait is a more contemporary illustration, using the same raised ink intaglio process as the portrait, numerals and engravings. The symbols of freedom differ for each denomination.

Updated Portrait and Vignette

The oval borders and fine lines surrounding the portrait of President Jackson on the front, and the White House vignette on the back, have been removed. The portrait has been moved up and shoulders have been extended into the border. Additional engraving details have been added to the vignette background.

Low-Vision Feature


The numeral 20 in the lower right corner on the back of the Twenty dollar note is enlarged to help those with visual impairments distinguish the denomination.


Because they are so small, microprinted words are hard to replicate. The redesigned $20 bill features microprinting on the front of the bill in two areas: bordering the first three letters of the TWENTY USA ribbon to the right of the portrait, the inscription USA20 is printed in blue. THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 20 USA 20 appears in black on the border below the Treasurer’s signature.

Federal Reserve Indicators

A universal seal to the left of the portrait represents the entire Federal Reserve System. A letter and number beneath the left serial number identifies the issuing Federal Reserve Bank.

Serial Numbers

The unique combination of eleven numbers and letters appears twice on the front of the bill. Because they are unique identifiers, serial numbers help law enforcement identify counterfeit notes.

Remember to always check the bills for these easy security steps to ensure you are receiving the money you deserve. 

Contact your local police department if you notice anything is wrong with your currency. If you are looking for further information on this subject talk to a local bank in your communities for more information.

For additional online resources on how to identify counterfeit money take a look at iTestCash resources.

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