How do I determine if a banknote is genuine? What should I do if I think I have a counterfeit note?

The best way to determine whether a note is genuine is to rely on the security features, such as the watermark and security thread. Counterfeit detection pens are not always accurate and may give you false results. To learn about these and other security features in genuine Federal Reserve notes, visit the U.S. Currency Education Program website.

It is important to know what the security features are in genuine currency, because if you end up with a counterfeit note, you will lose that money. A counterfeit note cannot be exchanged for a genuine one, and it is illegal to knowingly pass counterfeit currency.

If you live in the United States and you think you've received a counterfeit note, immediately notify the local police. Try to remember the physical characteristics of the person who passed the suspect counterfeit, and if possible write down the person's license plate number and vehicle description. Store the suspect counterfeit apart from genuine currency and release it as soon as possible to law enforcement authorities.

If you live outside the United States and want to report counterfeit currency, you should notify the U.S. Secret Service field office in your region. The Law Enforcement section of our currency education website,, offers contact information for U.S. Secret Service field offices around the world.

Related Information

Quick Reference Guide (PDF)

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Last Update: January 04, 2018