After reporting on a handful of counterfeit money cases this month, I asked the Assistant Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Secret Service office St. Louis for some perspective.
Jim Bohnert says the office is not seeing an unusual increase in the number of counterfeit bills circulating in our economy. The office does see pockets of counterfeit bill production, made easier by advances in computer, scanner, and printing technology.
According to Bohnert: counterfeiters prefer to make phony $20 bills because they don't usually arouse the suspicions of cashiers.
Often, you can detect counterfeit money produced on a printer just by the feel of the bill. Sometimes it will feel a little thicker or thinner than it usually would. Color copies of bills are common and look pretty convincing, but will often feel just a little off.
Another easy way to check money is to hold the bill up to the light and look for the water marks. The water mark should match the denomination printed on the bill. For example, a five dollar bill held up to the light reveals Abe Lincolns image marked lightly into the paper. Older bills may not have picture of the president, but will have the number 5 shine through.