Support our mission

Civilian and military law-enforcement officials met at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, recently for a primer on detecting counterfeit U.S. dollars led by a Secret Service agent from Hawaii.

The 76 participants from U.S. and Japanese agencies learned some of the ways counterfeits are produced and ways to detect them, according to Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigator Stacey V. Nelson.

The Yokosuka office of NCIS hosted the training, led by Special Agent Anthony Opie from the U.S. Secret Service Hawaii Field Office.

Opie told participants that sophisticated counterfeit currency has appeared throughout Asia, most likely created by foreign criminal groups, according to an NCIS statement on the training.

However, Opie said, the more prevalent counterfeiters today make bills using home computers and sophisticated copying machines.

Participants came from NCIS, as well as the Air Force Office of Special Investigations; Army Criminal Investigations Division; Yokosuka and Naval Air Facility Atsugi security departments; and Army Military Police Investigations.

Nonmilitary U.S. participants included the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Japanese investigators from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Criminal Investigation Division; Japan National Police; Japanese Customs; and the Japanese coast guard also participated, Nelson said.

According to recent news and government reports, counterfeit U.S. currency in Asia is a growing concern for law-enforcement agencies, but it’s not necessarily a new phenomenon.

In the mid-1990s, a rash of exceptional forgeries called “super notes” was discovered in Japan and many Southeast Asian countries, most likely emanating from North Korea, according to news reports at the time.

Since then, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a new series of redesigned notes.

But the new bills also are at risk. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported a bust of forged dollars in Taiwan in August that appeared to be similar in quality to super notes.

According to the article, investigators found $140,000 worth of fake bills, and some investigators in Taiwan suggested the find was just a fraction of the high-quality forgeries circulating in the region.

NCIS recommends that anyone who comes across suspected counterfeit U.S. currency retain the bills and note the passer’s description, identification, companions and vehicle if possible. Contact base security officials immediately.

For more information, visit the Secret Service Web site’s “Know Your Money” section at

How to detect counterfeit money

According to the Secret Service, here are ways to detect funny money:

Compare: Look at money you receive and compare a suspect note with a genuine note (using the same denomination and series). Look for differences, not similarities.

Portrait: The genuine portrait appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background. The counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background, which is often too dark or mottled.

Seals: On a genuine bill, the saw-tooth points of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct and sharp. The counterfeit seals may have uneven, blunt or broken saw-tooth points.

Border: The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken. On the counterfeit, the lines in the outer margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.

Serial numbers: Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. The serial numbers are printed in the same ink color as the Treasury seal. On a counterfeit, the serial numbers may differ in color or shade of ink from the Treasury seal. The numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned.

Paper: Genuine currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Often counterfeiters try to simulate these fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper. Close inspection reveals, however, that on the counterfeit note the lines are printed on the surface, not embedded in the paper. It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacturing of United States currency.

— U.S. Secret Service

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up