Approximately 60% of U.S. currency notes circulate abroad. As the most widely used currency in the world, U.S. notes are the most likely to be counterfeited. Since 1996, the United States has been issuing currency with new security features. These features make U.S. currency easier to recognize as genuine and more secure against advancing computer technology that could be used for counterfeiting. Currency counterfeiters are increasingly turning to digital methods, as advances in technology make digital counterfeiting of currency easier and cheaper. In 1995, for example, less than one percent of counterfeit notes detected in the U.S. were digitally produced. By 2002, that number had grown to nearly 40 percent, according to the Secret Service. Yet despite the efforts of counterfeiters, U.S. currency counterfeiting has been kept at low levels. According to current estimates, between 0.01 and 0.02 percent of notes in circulation are counterfeit, or about 1-2 notes in every 10,000 genuine notes. The strategy for maintaining the security of Federal Reserve notes is to enhance the design of U.S. currency every seven to ten years. One objective of introducing the new currency is to emphasize the number of features available to the public for authenticating bills. The most-talked-about aspect of the redesigned currency is the subtle introduction of background colors to the bills. While color itself is not a security feature, the use of color provides the opportunity to add features that could assist in deterring counterfeiting. Color will also help people to better distinguish their notes. Security features for the newly designed currency include a security thread, a watermark, and a more distinct color-shifting ink. The new $20 note was issued in fall 2003, with the $50 and $100 notes scheduled to follow 12 to 18 months later. Plans to redesign the $10 and $5 are still under consideration, but there are no plans to redesign the $2 and $1 notes. As was the case with the redesigned $20 note issued in 1998, the new design will co-circulate with the current design. As notes return to the Federal Reserve from depository institutions, the Federal Reserve will only destroy the unfit notes introduced since 1998. Designs older than the Series 1996 are destroyed when returned to the Federal Reserve regardless of condition. To ensure a smooth introduction of the new currency, a five-year international public education effort was launched in 2002 to inform the public and target audiences, including financial institutions, law enforcement, and the vending industry of the transition to the new design. The public is the first line of defense against counterfeiting. So, it's important the public has the tools to recognize the new and modified security features in the redesigned notes.
Bank note producers are working to thwart the threat of counterfeit notes created using high resolution, digital image processing software and color output devices such as inkjet printers, color copiers, and scanners. Genuine notes must incorporate better overt and machine-readable security features that will reduce the chance of counterfeit notes being passed. Recently, Canada and the United States introduced newly designed bank notes that are intended to enable the general public to more easily distinguish genuine notes from counterfeits. The Bank of Canada (BoC) and the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) have conducted similar market research projects to explore target audiences' perceptions and attitudes towards currency design and security features. This paper will present a comparative analysis of the two research projects, both of which were conducted using similar methodology. The results of these research studies assist in the selection of security features for future generations of bank notes.
One of the goals of the 1996 series design was to integrate highly recognizable features that enable the general public to more easily distinguish counterfeit from genuine notes, thereby reducing the chance of counterfeit notes being passed. The purpose of this study is to evaluate how knowledgeable the public is concerning the new currency, to identify the channels through which the public learns about new currency design, and to assess the usefulness of the new currency's authentication features. Also, the study will serve as a baseline measurement for future design studies and in comparative analysis with other countries. The results of the qualitative research will be described in the following sections of this paper. The quantitative research is scheduled to begin in February 2002, at the same time as the Netherlands' opinion poll of the Euro and NLG-notes in an effort to compare results.