How much counterfeit money is estimated to be in cirulation?

A recent article said that the New York subways took in about $70k in counterfeit money, about 0.002% of their total. It got me to wondering if that was a normal percentage. Tell me about counterfeit money.

Is counterfeit money something that we probably have had in our possession without our knowledge? Do people who suspect (or know) that a bill is counterfeit try and pass it to vending machines (like subway ticket vending machines), or was the NYC subway take a normal percentage? And if the banks knew the money was counterfeit, couldn’t the NYCTA vending machines detect bad bills?

How do counterfeiters spend the money? It probably isn’t possible to put 400 fake $20 bills into one’s checking account. What’s the fence rate for fake money? They certainly aren’t going to pay 80% of face value.

So I googled “Counterfeit money”. I couldn’t believe there are people who advertise that they sell counterfeit cash. Of course they could be scammers selling Monopoly money. The purchaser would have no recourse as courts don’t help crooks.

Another source says that “around 1 in 10,000 bills is fake.”

Most estimates place two-thirds of cash currency outside of U.S. borders, and huge amounts of that are suspected of being counterfeit, mostly from rogue nations, not individual counterfeiters. Google superdollars.

This pdf, Estimating the Worldwide Volume of Counterfeit U.S. Currency: Data and Extrapolation, by the Federal Reserve, is outdated, since it’s from 2003, but it estimates that at least half of $100 bills are counterfeit.

Most people inside the U.S. will never encounter counterfeits. Outside the country, I’d be more cautious. In some places, I’d demand a bank transfer.

Also, the odds of a counterfeit bill vary with the denomination.
It’s much higher for larger bills ($50 or $100) than for small ones like $5 or $1. Those are just too small to be worth a counterfeiters time.

Nm. Stupid phone.

The $20 is one of the most commonly used bills and is also commonly counterfeited. I’ve seen at least one and heard of others being circulated within the US. I’d say Americans would most likely see one of these if they see any at all.

I’ve also heard of the new $100 bill being counterfeited. That purplish stripe in the middle with the moving liberty bells is virtually impossible for counterfeiters to duplicate, but that apparently doesn’t stop them. I guess they are assuming people just aren’t observant.

It would seem to me that since the old $100 bills are still completely valid and apparently easier to counterfeit, the best strategy for a counterfeiter is just to continuing producing the old bills.

I’ve never actually seen the new bills with the moving liberty bells. If someone gave me one, I wouldn’t know if was counterfeit or not.

Here’s an earlier thread on the subject.

You’d think so. But if you have a crisp, new-looking bill of the old design, people might get suspicious.

The old $100s are relatively rare in circulation. I started a thread about why that was a while ago. Apparently the Federal Reserve is actively taking the old ones out circulation, even if they aren’t worn out.

The Treasury Dept used to have a video about them on its website. I just tried to find it but couldn’t. Perhaps you could ask a teller at your bank to let you see one. Or even just buy one.

And as they become rare, they become collectible. So old ones in reasonably good condition get taken out of circulation by collectors as well, accelerating the process.

There are tens of billions of $100 bills, perhaps trillions. All the collectors in the world couldn’t change that by any noticeable amount.

Your cite from post #3 says there was (at that time) about $600 billion of US currency in existence. Even if all of it was hundreds, that’d be about 6 billion notes. I don’t know (and didn’t look up) the distribution of total value versus face amounts, but I’d bet hundreds are less than 1/3 of the total bill count. So call it 2 billion $100 notes max. So I think your comment above is off by a couple orders of magnitude.

You overall point stands though IMO. The vast bulk of old bills disappeared into the Fed’s recall and destruction programs. Collectors and/or mattress hoarders are a drop in the bucket.

Although …

We did have a thread awhile ago about somebody’s grandma who’d squirreled away $30K or so in the old-fashioned twenties and hundreds. The OP was worried about problems with her depositing her hoard of very obsolete money & the questions it’d raise. That old lady is far from the only Depression-era oldster in the US with a secret stash.

I could imagine Pablo Escobar and his ilk had/have buried an awful lot of currency in out of the way places too.

I raised the amount for a couple of reasons. The amount of known currency has at least doubled since 2003 and that number doesn’t include counterfeit currency. Trillions was hyperbole, admittedly, but as you note the confirmed numbers are ridiculously large and the number of new $100 bill collectors ridiculously small.

Cool. Thanks.

A few sites I have read suggest around 3 billion dollars in circulation at any time.

This factors is in statistics of how much money is in circulation and the estimated percentage of counterfeits that are out.

This doesn’t say how many actual bills there are but I imagine a sizeable amount of small bills are used by counterfeiters.

Easy to find. Just check his lottery numbers.

No, actually, counterfeiters concentrate on larger bills ($100 or $50). They don’t seem to think it’s worth the effort to do smaller bills. And the legal penalty is the same for any denomination.

About 70-75% of counterfeits are $100 bills and 20% are $50’s; all the rest are only 5%-10%. And those low-denomination ones are mostly ‘amateur’ counterfeits, done via copier or PC printer, often by juveniles. Professional counterfeiters use printing presses, and concentrate on $100’s, occasionally $50’s.

Hear that man, that makes sense. Guess it could be more worth the counterfeiters time to print bigger bills rather than smaller ones.

Sorry if this is a hijack but is bleaching of low denomination bills in order to print higher denomination counterfeits on the paper still a possibility?

Yes, it’s still done. But it’s easier to detect in a careful examination.

The paper used for US currency is rather unique, with a particular ‘feel’ to it. And busy cashiers often only glance at a bill they receive, but they touch & feel every one. So many counterfeits are caught because they don’t ‘feel right’ to a cashier. Using bleached lower-denomination bills ensures that at least the ‘feel’ of the raised bill is genuine.

But the newer bills have a security ribbon embedded in the paper, that has the denomination printed on it. And these ribbons are located in different places on different denominations.