The People in the Black Suits Don’t Have a Sense of Humor

Black suit with white shirt and pocket square blending in with black background

By Jennifer Adams

Photocopying money is no laughing matter. Not only is it a federal crime, punishable by prison time and fines, but it is nearly impossible to do. In fact, modern technology is so advanced, it recognizes currency and prevents the entire bill from being copied, as well as photoshopped. Here’s how it works.

          In the event that you were hard up for cash, and decided to try to photocopy money, your printer would only print a sliver of the bill. Why? Each dollar bill in the US Currency system, as well as the currency in other countries, have a unique marking known as the EURion Constellation. According to the Duke University website, the EURion constellation consists of five circles arranged like the starry constellation of Orion. The designers made special efforts to camouflage the pattern into the design of the banknote, but the technology originally developed by Xerox is able to detect the EURion Constellation pattern embedded in currency, and keep the image from being fully replicated. There are additional authenticity “tests,” to determine if a dollar bill is real, but they are not publicly known.

          According to Fstoppers website, Adobe Photoshop also has a built-in counterfeit detection system to prevent access to images of currency. Like copy machines, the software is also able to detect the EURion Constellation.  If a user attempts to access a photo of currency, a warning message is displayed and then the user is redirected to a website with information on international counterfeiting laws.

          Although it is common to joke about copying money, the government workers in black suits do not have a sense of humor when it comes to illegally duplicating money. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing at the U.S. Department of the Treasury not only forbids the practice of photocopying money, but also bonds, stamps, and securities of the U.S and foreign governments.  It is a federal crime that can be punishable by a fine of up to $15,000, or 15 years in prison, possibly both. If accused of this crime, the secret service can obtain a warrant to search your home, and perform the search, within the same day the suspected crime is reported.

          Crime does not pay, and the intelligence of technology has become unparalleled. What starts in good fun or boredom can lead to criminal charges, fines, and prison time. Even if intended as a joke, photocopying money is never a laughing matter.

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