Here’s What Happens When You Photocopy Money


If you haven’t been to your local copy shop
lately, you simply must. Technology has come so far over the last few
years. These days, a high-end copy machine can produce
prints with as many as 9600 by 600 dots per inch. “Are we clear?” “Yes, sir.” “Are we CLEAR?!” “Crystal.” With that sort of crystal clear quality and
the ready availability of all manner of fancy papers, you might ask yourself “Why don’t
I buy a ream of mint green stationery, shove a couple of sawbucks in the Xerox, and break
real bad printing off sweet duckets?” “How much is this?” “I have no earthly idea.” Amazingly enough, the government somehow recognized
pretty early on that a machine capable of making exact replicas of two dimensional surfaces
might be a threat to the stability of a paper currency. That’s why bills and notes around the world
are outfitted with little-understood, remarkably hush-hush watermarks and patterns designed
to alert printers and digital image editors to the potential presence of fat stacks of
cash. Exhibit A is the EURion constellation, a distinctive
five point pattern incorporated into the face of most modern currency. It’s pretty easy to spot in the tiny zeroes
on the back of a twenty dollar bill and every variation of the Euro, and can be found on
cash from all over the world. When software built into photocopiers senses
this pattern, the machine will deliberately trash the resulting copy, either by printing
only a fraction of the image or by refusing to print at all. Additionally, most versions of programs like
Adobe Photoshop will display an intimidating warning message if they detect currency in
an image file. What makes this extra interesting is that,
by design, we don’t know all of the ways that software can thwart your attempts to slam
out a couple of sheets of scratch. With new security measures being included
all the time, it’s unlikely that counterfeiters will be able to catch up. At least not the ones at Kinkos. There are plenty of other ways that currencies
around the world have been redesigned to curb the desires of everyone’s inner Rob Schneider,
too. “The Tomster, makin’ copies, Mr. Tom.” The addition of a thin plastic strip to paper
money has become common, as has the use of holographic marking and abandoning paper money
altogether in favor of polymer banknotes, which have been used in Australia and New
Zealand since the 80s and 90s. But let’s say that you won’t let any of this
deter you. “That’s just a straight shooter with upper
management written all over him.” You’re a go getter, a dreamer, and in close
proximity to the office photocopier. You’ve managed, hypothetically, to bypass
the cryptic software used to keep you from hitting that “print” button and now you’ve
got yourself a billfold four inches thick with cash that, let’s be honest, doesn’t look
particularly real, but to hell with it. Maybe the valet at Fuddruckers won’t notice. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? “Um, it’s obviously a crime to pass counterfeit
money.” So glad you asked. In the good old U.S. of A., counterfeiting
currency falls under U.S. Code title 18 section 471, which the folks at Cornell’s Legal Information
Institute will happily tell you states the following: “Whoever, with intent to defraud, falsely
makes, forges, counterfeits, or alters any obligation or other security of the United
States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.” Up until the mid-90s, that fine was “no more
than $5000,” but the law was reworded in 1994. Now, shoving a Benjamin in the Xerox machine
can mean that you owe the American government as much as $250,000. Of course, that’s a slap on the wrist compared
to the punishment in China, which includes a life sentence. Still, it doesn’t seem to matter how harsh
the consequences, or even how advanced anti-counterfeiting measures become. Like Batman commissioner James Gordon predicted,
there’s always going to be escalation. Per the BBC news, in December of 2019, a joint
effort by Europol shut down a preposterously advanced ring of counterfeiters in Germany,
Austria, France, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Spain, managing to retrieve over a million
euros worth of fake bills. The gang had a setup so advanced that they
were capable of producing their own holographic strips and chemical watermarks, selling through
anonymous Tor routing networks, and were reported to be “the darknet’s second largest counterfeit
currency producer.” Even with such a remarkable, Carmen Sandiego-worthy
series of facilities, they still got caught. The point here is, you’re probably not going
to do a lot better with a Best Buy rewards membership card and an HP Inkjet, so honestly,
you’re a lot better off not trying. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about strange
and interesting topics are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
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