How Do You Spot Fake Money?

We know there are security measures in place to prevent cash from being counterfeited, but what are they and how do we make sure our money is real? Let’s find out.


Counterfeiting and forgery is one of those crimes few people think about every day. Do you know anybody who tried to forge their parents’ signature on their school report or on a permission slip to get out of school? We sure do.

Far from just tools of juvenile mischievousness, forgery and counterfeiting can cause real-world trouble. Especially when it comes to counterfeit money. It’s important for all of us to know whether or not the banknotes in our wallet are legal tender or risk not being able to pay with our cash at critical moments. Here are the tips on spotting counterfeit cash, courtesy of Bank Negara Malaysia.

Feel it

A genuine paper banknote is usually printed on very high quality paper and manufactured from cotton. It has a unique feel, a crisp sound, and slightly rough in the heavily printed areas. These heavily printed areas are the result of intaglio printing which means the printed numbers on banknotes feel thicker under your fingers.

How Do You Spot Fake Money?

A fake paper banknote would often be made of common quality paper and won’t have the feeling of raised print when you run your fingers over them.

See it

You can also look at the banknote while holding it up to the light. A genuine paper banknote carries a watermark portrait, security thread and perfect see through features. The watermark portrait of Yang DiPertuan Agong has a three dimensional effect and appears soft and shady without sharp outlines.

At the base of its watermark, a denomination number would be clearly visible. The security thread will always appear embedded in the paper. The hibiscus flower on the obverse will register perfectly with the same flower on the reverse of the banknote. A counterfeit paper banknote will not be able to replicate these features perfectly.

Tilt it

This method only works on the RM10, RM50, and RM100 paper banknotes. Tilting the note, you will see an iridescent stripe that shines under bright light. This stripe shows the banknote denomination and the name of Bank Negara Malaysia when the view angle is shifted. You can also see a hidden image of the denomination number when changing the angle of viewing.

These features will not appear as they should in a counterfeit note, because it’s too cumbersome to replicate. However, the iridescent stripe effect may be stimulated by using a plain shiny foil.

What to do if Your Note is Fake?

The tips we give here are for paper banknotes and do not include steps on how to spot fake polymer banknotes or counterfeit coins. But if you ever do encounter fake polymer notes, coins, or any other type of counterfeit currency, here’s what you need to do:

Do take notice of the person who handed you the money, if they have any identifying features, or take note of their personal details if you have them. This information can help determine where the fake notes came from and stop their circulation.

Do note down all the details of how you got the currency. Date, time, who, and where.

Do take the currency to the nearest police station and surrender it to them after lodging a police report.

Do not handle the currency too much. Touch it as little as possible and transfer it into an envelope or plastic cover.

Do not attempt to re-use it or damage the currency. This makes it harder to find the perpetrators responsible.

Now that you know how to spot fake money, we hope you stay safe out there in your day-to-day cash transactions. If this information is making you skittish about using cash, switch over to a credit card. Our credit card comparison tool can help you choose the best credit cards that fit your spending style.

Have any questions about fake currency? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section down below!


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