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Inkjet printers make cash counters necessary counterfeit deterrents

Inkjet printers are a surprisingly common source of counterfeit bills, making cash counters necessary.

Cash counters serve an important purpose in the field of law enforcement and retail: detecting counterfeit bills from all angles. There are a lot of different technologies in place to fully detect a fake $5 or $50 bill. One is magnetic sensing. While a magnet ring can usually detect if a bill is fake, some criminals can cleverly bypass it by inserting magnetic ink into the process. The sensors on these counters know how much magnetic ink is in a real $50 or $100 bill, making it harder to pass false money. This technology can help prevent criminals from undermining businesses and the local economy.

Money counters help businesses identify fake bills

When people think of counterfeit money, they probably believe that these bills come from shady yet high-class offset printers, similar to the ones used to print newspapers or magazines. As the Atlantic notes, that is mostly the case with money seized by the Secret Service outside the U.S. However, the only reason such foreign actors may have access to these machines is because of backing from corrupt governments seeking to undermine American interests. Within the U.S., commercial-grade offset printers are just too expensive to procure secretly anymore, and creating fake bills from scratch requires finding the right grade of paper, plates that match the bill's design and the right inks. It's an expensive undertaking.

Instead of such a sophisticated operation, many criminals now use a far less expensive and more efficient way of printing counterfeit money: inkjet printers. Bloomberg Business cites the example of one working mother who printed $20,000 in counterfeits. The process is relatively simple: First, a person bleaches a low-value bill, usually a $1 or $5 bill, using a degreasing solvent and scrubbing off the ink. Then the bill undergoes a drying process, usually with a hairdryer or heating fan. After that, the criminal uses the blank bill to print a scanned image of a high-value bill.

While crude and relatively inefficient due to the requirement of getting real dollar bills in the first place, it can be effective, according to Gizmodo. The primary tool of testing counterfeit bills is the pen test, which checks for starch in the paper. Because the fake bills are essentially printed-over bleached bills, it passes this test. Consequently, the technology makes it relatively easy for criminals to print a variety of large bills and pass them along to unsuspecting businesses. Bloomberg cited Secret Service statistics that found 60 percent of the $88.7 million seized in FY 2014 came from inkjet printers.

However, while it can pass the pen test, it can't hold up to further testing. The lack of magnetic ink is one issue. Another is the relatively low resolution images used for the fake bills, which make them blurry. Finally, PC World noted that laser or LED printers all possess tracing technology that makes it possible to find the printer the counterfeit came from, meaning such actions are strictly limited to inkjet. With cash counters, other technologies such as fluorescence and UV lighting can help identify fake bills far more effectively. These machines can mitigate any impact caused by the appearance of counterfeits.

December 29, 2015