There are at least 41.6 billion individual Federal Reserve Notes â more commonly known as dollar bills â in circulation, and about 0.0093% of them are counterfeit.
If you happen to receive fake money from an ATM, consider yourself both very special and probably out of luck. Special because the odds of you actually getting fake currency from an ATM are infinitesimally small, and probably out of luck because thereâs very little chance youâll be able to trade in the fake bills for the real McCoy.
Getting counterfeit money from an ATM, particularly if the ATM is from a reputable bank and not a graffiti-covered disaster in a shady alley, can cause justified outrage. After all, that $100 you just got has been deducted from your account, and as far as the bankâs concerned the moneyâs been withdrawn and is now your problem.
Marching up to a bank teller and waving the fake money in his face doesnât guarantee youâll get reimbursed. âHow would [the customer] prove that they received that bill from the [bankâs] ATM?â said Nessa Feddis, senior vice president and deputy chief counsel at the American Bankers Association.
Banks employ machines to check the authenticity of all the currency they receive before placing it back in circulation via teller or ATM, so an instance of someone getting fake money directly from a bank would be considered a rarity.
âItâs pretty remote that banks would be giving customers counterfeit bills because they check them,â Feddis said, though she still acknowledged it as a possibility. âSomething could fall through the cracks, but even then the onus is on the person who has the counterfeit bill to prove that they didnât create it themselves, that they received it from the bank and they didnât receive it from somebody else.â
Donât expect the government to be any better at reimbursing you for the fake money youâve received. In its instructions on how to return a counterfeit bill to the proper authorities, the Treasury Department notes âthere is no financial remuneration for the return of the counterfeit bill, but it is doing the âright thingâ to help combat counterfeiting.â
You probably wonât like the fact you have to take a loss on counterfeit money, but at least you can take solace in knowing that nobody else will get burned by that particular forgery in the future.
While neither the bank nor the government are a good bet when it comes to getting your money back, salvation can come from an unlikely source: homeowners or renters insurance. Some policies allow you to claim receiving counterfeit money (the exact limit to how much you can claim depends on your individual policy).
Given the heartbreak that comes with receiving counterfeit money from an ATM, you may want to pay it forward and learn how to spot fake money to avoid taking bogus bills in other transaction (such as getting change from a retail store).
You may have seen clerks and cashiers occasionally scratch at a bill youâve given them with a pen meant to detect counterfeit bills, but the federal reserve claims these tools arenât always accurate.
Fortunately, each denomination of paper money contains security features you can spot to help you determine if the bill in your hand is genuine, so long as you know what you are looking for. The $100 bill for instance contains:
A more detailed breakdown of each denomination security features can be found at the website for the U.S. Currency Education Program, a federal government entity charged with educating users of U.S. currency about the ins and outs of paper money.
Suppose for a second you lack any sort of moral compass or conscienceâwhatâs the worst that could happen if you just try and spend that $20 you know is counterfeit? The answer is up to 15 years in prison and as much as a $15,000 fine, according to the law.
Instead, if you receive counterfeit money from an ATM, the first thing you should do is go to the bank, which will take care of it from there. If you canât (or simply donât want to) go to the bank, the Treasury Department recommends against confronting whomever passed you the fake currency in case doing so would place you in personal danger. You also should:
If that sounds like a painâŚ well, it is. But while you lose money, you gain the satisfaction of getting to play Elliot Ness for a day.