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Foiling Counterfeiting Countermeasures

Really neat story found on Bruce Schneier's security-related blog (syndicated on LJ as bruce_schneier):
Counterfeiters Pass Off 5s As 100s

PALM HARBOR - Twice on Saturday, customers at the Music Exchange handed the cashier $100 bills, store owner Jason Bandy said. One was to purchase a DVD of the movie "Sin City." The other was to buy a CD of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.

The cashier dutifully ran a special pen across the bills to ensure they weren't counterfeit, and both bills passed the test, Bandy said.

Trouble was, as Bandy learned later, they were $5 bills, not $100 bills....

The notes were all $5 bills that had been bleached and altered to look like $100 bills, sheriff's investigators said. They passed muster with the pen because it determines only whether the paper used to manufacture the currency is legitimate, Bandy said.

Read the full story....
Schneier adds the following commentary:
As a security measure, the merchants use a chemical pen that determines if the bills are counterfeit. But that's not exactly what the pen does. The pen only verifies that the paper is legitimate. The criminals successfully exploited this security hole.

Read Schneier's commentary and other responses to the story....
It's just another example of how criminals will adapt to security measures. I think the counterfeiters were pretty clever -- I wonder how many times people have successfully passed off bills like this in the past.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 19th, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC)
I worked as a cashier at Albertsons once. One of the other cashiers had a customer who bought $2 worth of stuff. The customer handed him what looked like a $20. His thumb covered up the middle of the bill so the cashier could only see the 20 in the corners. When the cashier's shift was over with, they found that it was really a $5. The customer (or someone else, but I'm sure he did it) cut the "20"'s off and put them on the $5. He walked out with $2 worth of stuff and $18 in his pocket.
Jan. 19th, 2006 03:44 pm (UTC)
Am I a bad person for slightly admiring the counterfeiters here?

Whenever someone doesn't like an alleged security measure, one of the arguments is that it will provide a "false sense of security". I wonder whether the checkout clerks would have looked at the bills more carefully if they didn't have their Magic Pens.
Jan. 19th, 2006 03:56 pm (UTC)
Am I a bad person for slightly admiring the counterfeiters here?

I hope not, 'cause then I would be, too. I think their solution was pretty clever. I really wonder how they managed the whole transformation, after bleaching the fives.

When I worked in a video store, checking for counterfeits was never more than just rubbing the magic pen over the bill. There was no real focus on watching out for counterfeits. Plus, my guess is that the folks taking money in these situations typically won't care about trying to catch counterfeits -- these are not high-paying jobs we're talking about here.
Jan. 19th, 2006 04:00 pm (UTC)
Some places I know use the pens, others hold up to the light to look for the watermark and strips saying 20 20 20 or 100 100 100...

Jan. 19th, 2006 04:37 pm (UTC)
When I worked at a video store, we didn't even do that.
Jan. 19th, 2006 09:23 pm (UTC)
This is a process referred to as "raising notes". It used to be done to $1 bills... being the cheapest paper bill available. However, the mint started putting foil in bills to thwart such processes. Only the $1 bill is missing a strip. The strip is woven into the paper such that it is not removable and cannot be inserted into a pressed bill. It's made of silver so it's not bleachable.

(Interesting stuff you can learn from PBS.)
Jan. 19th, 2006 09:52 pm (UTC)
I need to watch more PBS.

Every now and then I catch a tv show or an article that deals with the paper currency in some fashion or other. It always fascinates me.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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