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Counterfeit Alert: Bleached Bills

Bleached bills.

Bleached notes.

Fake money.

Counterfeit currency.

Whatever you call it, it’s fraud and it’s popping up with alarming frequency in 2018.

Over the past six months, individuals have been arrested in connection with counterfeit money in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New York, and Ohio.

In 2017, the Secret Service prevented the circulation of over $73 million dollars in counterfeit money and arrested more than 1,548 people as result of counterfeit investigations. Fake money is making the rounds and it may end up in your hands. To protect your business against this form of fraud, you need to be informed about the process of creating counterfeit money and how to spot it.


Counterfeit money can be created several ways, but one method gaining popularity is the process of bleaching bills.

bleached money bill markersBleached bills are a form of counterfeit money made from legitimate U.S. currency, usually in denominations of $1 or $5 bills. Genuine U.S. currency is typically bleached with household chemicals to remove the ink from the bill. A new, larger denomination is then printed on the legitimate paper. This fake money passes hands easily because the testing markers used to detect counterfeit money don’t always pick up on the fakes due to authentic paper.

A quick online search yields thousands of websites offering advice on the most effective chemicals to use in creating bleached bills. So the process is widely known.


As part of your fraud prevention program, you should get familiar with some methods to spot counterfeit money. Here are some tips from the U.S. Secret Service*:


  • A watermark of the President, present on the face of the bill, should also be present as a watermark on the right of the bill.

Check Color-Shifting Ink

  • Examine the front of the bill and notice the number in the lower right; tilt the bill back and forth at a 45-degree angle looking for a color change from green to black.
    • Number should be green when viewer straight on.
    • Number should be black when tilted.
  • Many counterfeits are shiny, but don’t change color like real currency.
  • Note there is no color-shifting ink on the $5 denomination.

Check Security Threads

  • Checking counterfeit money light. 100 dollars against the window in his hand. Check for watermark on new hundred dollar bill. translucence of the American currency.Hold the currency up to the light and locate the security thread.
  • Each note has a different colored security thread placed on the front and in a different location for each denomination.
  • Thread can only be detected when held up to light.
  • If the security thread is visible or shiny on the front or back, be suspicious.



While counterfeit money is a loss for your business, it is also illegal to pass. If you believe you have received counterfeit money, the U.S. Department of Treasury recommends the following*:

  • Do not return the bill to the passer.
  • Observe the passer’s description–and their companions’ descriptions–and write down their vehicle license plate numbers if you can.
  • Contact your local police department or call your local Secret Service office.
  • Write your initials and date in the white border area of the suspected counterfeit note.
  • Do not handle the counterfeit note. Place it inside a protective cover, a plastic bag, or envelope to protect it until you place it in the hands of an identified Secret Service Special Agent. You can also mail it to your nearest Secret Service office.


Jim Close is the Director of Loss Prevention at DIGIOP, bringing over 25 years of experience in all facets of Loss Prevention.

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