Show Me the Fake Money

May 21, 2012

By Darrin Clouse:

I can’t help but crack up anytime I’m checking out at the grocery store  and the cashier holds my $20 bill up to the sky to make sure it’s real… as if she’s asking some higher power to inspect this legal tender for forgery.

Or maybe she pulls out the highlighter and swipes it across the bill waiting for the proper color to appear.  Come on Orange !!!!

The reason it’s so funny to me is because I most likely have been making idle conversation with this person for the last 5 minutes, and maybe we’ve laughed because I’ve pointed out my crappy eating habits or some other self-deprecating comment, and even after breaking that stranger barrier, she blows the mood by basically saying, “Hold on a minute, I just need to make sure you’re not a felon who prints his own money at home.”

Okay, I understand the policy wasn’t made by the cashier, and I probably shouldn’t take offense to the ritual, but it’s difficult not to be slightly miffed at the suggestion. Even so, I have nothing to complain about compared to a man in New Jersey who recently got stuck with counterfeit cash from his own bank.

Stiffed at the bank

A New Jersey man recently withdrew $2,500 in cash from his TD Bank account and tried to deposit in his account at Bank of America. Unfortunately, one of $100 bills he was given by TD Bank turned out to be counterfeit.  Bank of America turned him away.

The man returned to TD bank to question the teller there, and even though she remembered the transaction and acknowledged she had most likely passed the counterfeit bill to him, there was nothing the bank could do. The bank manager broke the news to the dumbfounded customer and informed him that it was bank policy that once a customer accepts cash — counterfeit or not — it’s the customer’s problem and not the bank’s.

Tips to Spot it before it happens to You

It’s an expensive lesson to learn, so to help you avoid getting stuck with “fake” money, here are a few tips gathered by the folks at

Look for the watermark. Hold the bill up to the light and you should be able to see a telltale image emerge. If the watermark doesn’t match the portrait or denomination of the bill, it might be a reprinted forgery. ( Ahh-haa, the “eye in the sky” method!)

– Check for color-shifting ink. Larger bills are imprinted with ink that appears to be a different color when you look at it from an angle rather than head-on.

Texture. Real money, made with linen and cotton, has a distinctively crisp feel. Compare it to another bill in your wallet.

Lesson Learned

All good advice for you, but what about the poor guy in New Jersey?   He’s writing the whole experience off as a cautionary tale for others and is talking about it to help consumers.

“I feel like I have been duped, but I don’t want the money back,” he says. “I consider the $100 to be a donation to educating your readers,” the man told The Consumerist website.

We might not all be so forgiving.  Should banks be responsible for forged money they accidentally pass along to the customer?  Let us know what you think by contacting us here at The Consumer Warning Network.

Reader Comments:

Garrett in NH:

“So now Banks have really shown their colors. They stell(sic) our money with ridiculously low interest rates on our savings, ridiculously high interest and fees on what they loan to us. They get bail outs and still will not take responsibility for their actions.
What part of the 10 C\’s do they not understand (hint #8)”…

Ron in MD:

Yes, banks should be responsible for forged money they accidentally pass.
There must be a way of recording exactly what bills are given to a customer, such that a bank can prove whether each bill is genuine. And banks could be required to check money they give out.
In any case, there should be zero-risk of getting funny money from a bank.