If someone ends up with suspected counterfeit US currency, what can they do with it? Obviously tendering it for goods or services would be illegal.

Handing it in for analysis and eventual destruction by the issuing authority would be the "right" thing to do but the acceptor will have lost that value.

The acceptor has been the victim and is unlikely to see restitution. Can the holder of the fake notes on-sell them legally to recoup some of their lost money?

Inspired by https://travel.stackexchange.com/questions/153780/how-can-i-tell-if-old-us-currency-is-usable and related to Is it permissible to collect counterfeit currency?

Better version of photo from Travel question

  • 4
    For the US, this is definitely a crime if done "with the intent that the same be passed, published, or used as true and genuine", 18 USC 473. Does the holder of the notes have such intention? Feb 15, 2020 at 0:09
  • 1
    Making the question global makes it too broad, and I would vote to close it in that case. Each country has its own laws and there's no reason to think one answer would cover all of them; you're asking for hundreds of answers. Feb 15, 2020 at 0:11
  • 2
    My opinion is that it should be limited to a single country per question. If you must know about multiple countries, ask multiple questions (but be prepared that an excessive number may annoy people or run you into rate limits). Feb 15, 2020 at 0:34
  • 3
    @NateEldredge: If a counterfeit note was conspicuously and indelibly marked in such a way that it could not be plausibly palmed off as genuine, would the agent still have the authority to seize it? I would think that some businesses might benefit from having some specimen counterfeit bills mounted in frames to cover their markings, along with real bills mounted similarly, to train employees in how to tell the difference [it would be unlikely that anyone would accept a frame-mounted bill as tender, so the fact that the frame covered up the markings wouldn't really "disguise" them]
    – supercat
    Feb 15, 2020 at 19:50
  • 2
    @NateEldredge: I suppose another related question would be what the procedure would be for giving some kind of receipt in case the person who was in possession of the note held it on behalf of a business. If a clerk ends up $20 short but with a receipt from the treasury department saying that a counterfeit $20 note was taken, the business owner may not be happy, but should regard that situation rather differently than if $20 was missing with nothing to show for it.
    – supercat
    Feb 15, 2020 at 21:39

1 Answer 1


To avoid criminal penalties in the U.S. (18 USC 473 and related general provisions of the federal criminal code in Title 18 of the United States Code), the suspected counterfeit status must be disclosed, and the seller must be able to reasonably determine that the buyer does not intend to pass off the bills as true and genuine (otherwise there would be potential accessory or conspirator liability for the counterfeiting conduct of the buyer).

Counterfeit currency may be sold as an object, but not as currency or as a tool for someone else to engage in counterfeit currency offenses.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .