Counterfeit Money - Anti-counterfeiting Measures

Anti-counterfeiting Measures

Traditionally, anti-counterfeiting measures involved including fine detail with raised intaglio printing on bills which would allow non-experts to easily spot forgeries. On coins, milled or reeded (marked with parallel grooves) edges are used to show that none of the valuable metal has been scraped off. This detects the shaving or clipping (paring off) of the rim of the coin. However, it does not detect sweating, or shaking coins in a bag and collecting the resulting dust. Since this technique removes a smaller amount, it is primarily used on the most valuable coins, such as gold. In early paper money in Colonial North America, one creative means of deterring counterfeiters was to print the impression of a leaf in the bill. Since the patterns found in a leaf were unique and complex, they were nearly impossible to reproduce.

In the late twentieth century advances in computer and photocopy technology made it possible for people without sophisticated training to copy currency easily. In response, national engraving bureaus began to include new more sophisticated anti-counterfeiting systems such as holograms, multi-colored bills, embedded devices such as strips, microprinting and inks whose colors changed depending on the angle of the light, and the use of design features such as the "EURion constellation" which disables modern photocopiers. Software programs such as Adobe Photoshop have been modified by their manufacturers to obstruct manipulation of scanned images of banknotes. There also exist patches to counteract these measures.

Recently, there has been a discovery of new tests that could be used on U.S. Federal Reserve Notes to ensure that the bills are authentic. These tests are done using intrinsic fluorescence lifetime. This allows for detection of counterfeit money because of the significance in difference of fluorescence lifetime when compared to authentic money.

For U.S. currency, anti-counterfeiting milestones are as follows:

  • 1996 $100 bill gets a new design with a larger portrait
  • 1997 $50 bill gets a new design with a larger portrait
  • 1998 $20 bill gets a new design with a larger portrait
  • 2000 $10 bill and $5 bill get a new design with a larger portrait
  • 2003 $20 bill gets a new design with no oval around Andrew Jackson's portrait and more colors
  • 2004 $50 bill gets a new design with no oval around Ulysses S. Grant's portrait and more colors
  • 2006 $10 bill gets a new design with no oval around Alexander Hamilton's portrait and more colors
  • 2008 $5 bill gets a new design with no oval around Abraham Lincoln's portrait and more colors
  • 2010 $100 bill gets a new design with no oval around Benjamin Franklin's portrait and more colors

The redesigned $100 bill was unveiled on April 21, 2010, and the Federal Reserve Board was to begin issuing the new bill on February 10, 2011, but the release has been delayed indefinitely as a result of printing defects.

The Treasury had made no plans to redesign the $5 bill using colors, but recently reversed its decision, after learning some counterfeiters were bleaching the ink off the bills and printing them as $100 bills. The new $10 bill (the design of which was revealed in late 2005) entered circulation on March 2, 2006. The $1 bill and $2 bill are seen by most counterfeiters as having too low a value to counterfeit, and so they have not been redesigned as frequently as higher denominations.

In the 1980s counterfeiting in the Republic of Ireland twice resulted in sudden changes in official documents: in November 1984 the £1 postage stamp, also used on savings cards for paying television licences and telephone bills, was invalidated and replaced by another design at a few days' notice, because of widespread counterfeiting. Later, the £20 Central Bank of Ireland Series B banknote was rapidly replaced because of what the Finance Minister described as "the involuntary privatisation of banknote printing".

In the 1990s, the portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong was placed on the banknotes of the People's Republic of China to combat counterfeiting, as he was recognised better than the generic designs on the renminbi notes.

In 1988 The Reserve Bank of Australia released the world's first long lasting and counterfeit-resistant polymer (plastic) banknotes with a special Bicentennial $10 note issue. After problems with this bill were discovered and addressed, in 1992 a problem-free $5 note was issued. In 1996 Australia became the first country to have a full series of circulating polymer banknotes. On 3 May 1999 the New Zealand Reserve Bank started circulating polymer banknotes printed by Note Printing Australia Limited. The technology developed is now used in 26 countries. Note Printing Australia is currently printing polymer notes for 18 countries.

The Swiss National Bank has a reserve series of notes for the Swiss Franc bill, in case widespread counterfeiting were to take place.

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