Counterfeit Currency

Counterfeit Currency

The counterfeiting of paper money, bonds and other documents is of major concern the world over. Even large amounts of Bermuda bank notes have been counterfeited!
Practically everybody resident in Bermuda handles money on a daily basis, and although counterfeiting is not a serious problem here at this time, everyone in their own interest should know how to distinguish genuine money from counterfeit currency.
Bermuda's two legal currencies are the Bermuda dollar and the United States dollar. The most commonly discovered counterfeited bills locally are the Bermuda fifty dollar note and the United States twenty dollar bill. Genuine examples of each of these notes are reproduced below at 1 1/2 times the actual size (in accordance with Bermuda Monetary Authority and United States Department of the Treasury regulations).
The quality of counterfeited notes range from extremely poor ones to those which are practically indistinguishable from the real thing. In particular be on the lookout for the following:

  1. Simple one colour photocopies of Bermuda bills and
  2. U.S. notes which bear false numerals from higher denomination bills and which are glued onto the corners of a note of a lower denomination.

Fake bills are likely to be passed anywhere that money changes hands - in stores, supermarkets, restaurants and especially in bars where the lighting is often poor.

Handling Suspected Counterfeit Currency


Identifying Genuine Bermudian Currency
Identifying Genuine United States Currency
Important Telephone Numbers

Handling Suspected Counterfeit Currency

If after examining a bank note you believe it to be counterfeit, put the bill in a safe place and telephone the Police immediately. In particular try to remember from whom you received the note. Write down all that you can recall about the person - especially anything that was different or out of the ordinary. Describe his or her clothing, jewellery and accent. What conversation took place if any? Did the person leave on foot or in a vehicle? Can you remember the vehicle number and in which direction was it heading when last seen?

Should the person from who you received the suspected counterfeit note be in your presence or close-by, try to stall them. Either telephone the Police yourself or have somebody do it for you. Do not hand the suspected counterfeit note back to the customer.

Identifying Genuine Bermudian Currency

Bermuda paper currency has a number of security features incorporated into its design which make it extremely difficult for a counterfeiter to produce an acceptable facsimile. Compare a suspected counterfeit note with a genuine bill such as the one illustrated below, look for differences, not similarities. Here are some of the safeguards.

  1. All Bermuda paper currency is printed in at least four different colours or shades. Several of the counterfeited Bermuda bank notes which have come into the possession of the Police Service have been simple one colour photocopies. The lack of colour in those photocopies was therefore an immediate giveaway.
  2. Check for the security thread which runs through every note. It is located just to the left of the portrait and runs from top to bottom.
  3. Check for the "tuna fish" watermark (as indicated by the red arrow on the bank note above) which is visible on either side. Holding the note up to the light, it can be seen on the face of the bill to the left of the portrait.
  4. Under ultra-violet light, the silhouette of a Bermuda Cahow bird can be seen on all 1st and 2nd series bank notes printed between 1970 and 2000. On the 3rd series of notes, first released in 2000, the Cahow has been replaced with square number blocks - for example the figure '$100' within a square. Like the Cahow bird before them, they can only be seen under UV or ultra-violet light.
  5. Check for the heavily engraved printing top and bottom which can be felt with your finger tips.

Identifying Genuine United States Currency

There are three classes of U.S. currency in common use; Federal Reserve notes (with green Treasury Seals), United States notes (red Seals) and the Silver Certificate notes (blue Seals). Federal Reserve notes are by far the more common and account for over 99% of all bills in circulation. Always compare a suspected counterfeit note with a known genuine bill. Look for differences, not similarities.

  1. Feel the texture of the paper. Since 1879, U.S. currency has been printed on special paper which contains red and blue fibres (both sides). These fibres are imbedded in the paper and on a genuine note can usually be removed with a needle and tweezers, sometimes even with your fingernails. Counterfeiters often simulate those fibres on bogus bills using red and blue ball point pens.
  2. Examine the portrait closely. It should be 'life-like' and extremely well defined. On counterfeit notes the portrait is often poorly reproduced and appears flat.
  3. The digits of the bill's serial number must be evenly spaced and form a straight line. The number should be the same colour and shading as the Treasury Seal to the right of the portrait.
  4. The saw-tooth points on the outer edge (see red arrow on image) of the Treasury Seal should be clear and distinct. Within the seal is a chevron (upside down Sergeants stripe) which contains 13 stars. On practically all counterfeit notes these stars appear simply as irregular blobs.
  5. Since 1990 two additional security features have been incorporated into the design of U.S. $100 and $50 bills. These are (a) a polyester strip bearing the wording "USA 100" or "USA 50" and which appears to the left of the Issuing Bank Seal (the working can be been when the bill is held up to the light); and (b) the micro printed wording "The United States of America" which is printed repeatedly to form a line around the outside edge of the portrait (visible with a magnifying glass). These features were introduced to all denominations of paper money by 1995, expect for the one dollar bill.
  6. The newest series of bank notes feature a watermark to the right of the portrait, as well as colour shifting ink in the number (e.g. $50).

Newly designed U.S. currency - with the addition of subtle background colours - was introduced in 2003 beginning with the $20 note. New designs for the $50 and $100 followed in 2004 & 2005. The introduction of new currency designs is part of an ongoing effort by the United States government to stay ahead of counterfeiting. The new $20 design retains three important security features that were first introduced in the 1990s and are easy for consumers and merchants alike to check - watermark, colour shifting ink and security thread.

Security Thread- Hold the bill up to the light and look for the security thread, or plastic strip, that is embedded in the paper and runs vertically up one side of the note. If you look closely, the words "USA TWENTY"and a small flag are visible along the thread from both sides of the note (highlighted by the circle at the left of the note above). This thread glows green when held under ultra-violet light.

Colour Shifting Ink - Look at the number "20" in the lower right corner on the face of the note. When you tilt the note up and down the colour shifting ink changes colour from copper to green.

Watermark- Hold the bill up to the light and look for the watermark, or faint image, similar to the large portrait of President Andrew Jackson. The watermark is part of the paper itself and it can be seen from both sides of the note (highlighted by the circle at the right of the note above).


A Only the newly designed American bank notes, which were first issued in 1995, contain a watermark - visible on the face of the note to the right of the image of the President, when the note is held up to the light.
B The signature appearing on the face of the bill may well change from one series to another.
C Even on genuine bills the Treasury Seal will sometimes appear off-centre to the left or right and the borders may be wider at the top than the bottom, or vice versa.
D If rubbed hard enough, ink will come off both genuine and counterfeit bank notes.
E 'In God We Trust' first appeared on selected notes 1957 and has appeared on all notes printed since 1963.

Important Telephone Numbers

Police (Emergency)
Hamilton Police Station
Somerset Police Station
Southside Police Station
Bermuda Commercial Bank Ltd.
HSBC Bermuda
The Bank of N.T. Butterfield