On Tuesday, banks around the country received redesigned $100 bills. Why? The $100 bill is popular—a little too popular. People all over the world use these bills bearing Founding Father Ben Franklin’s image to buy things. But according to the U.S. government, the $100 bill is also the world’s most commonly counterfeited bill.
To counterfeit something is to make a fake version of it. Only the Federal Reserve—a part of the U.S. government—can make real dollars and cents. But some people counterfeit big bills like America’s $100 bill to try to make money without earning it.
A HIGH-TECH SOLUTION
To make counterfeiting more difficult, the Federal Reserve issued the new $100 bill, which has new security features.
As with the old bills, the new ones are printed on special paper. But the redesigned note includes some special touches that will be difficult to counterfeit. One of them is a blue 3-D strip that’s woven into the bill. Tilt the bill, and little bells and little 100s on the strip move side to side. Tilt it another way, and the bells move up and down.
“That’s something that’s not going to be able to be reproduced on a photocopy machine, that’s for sure, or even on the computer,” says Dennis Forgue, a currency expert.
Another security feature is the image of a copper inkwell with a hologram of a bell inside. When the bill moves, the bell changes color from copper to green and back again. That makes it seem as though the bell is appearing and disappearing within the inkwell.
All these features make the new bill instantly recognizable. “It only takes a few seconds for people—if they know what they’re looking for—to know what they’re looking at is genuine,” says Michael J. Lambert, associate director of the Federal Reserve.
The $100 bill is the most-counterfeited bill outside the United States. The U.S. Secret Service, which combats counterfeiting, says that less than 0.01 percent of all U.S. bills are fake. But that still translates into a lot of phony money—roughly $95 million in fake bills last year.
The $100 bill gets counterfeited so much because it gets heavy use worldwide. The U.S. is a stable country, and $100 bills are seen as reliable. Unlike money from some other countries, there’s little risk that a $100 bill will suddenly lose value. The Federal Reserve says about one half to two thirds of $100 notes in circulation are in foreign countries.