American Greed Episode 31: Funny Money

Case File

Funny Money

  • U.S. Secret Service
  • An estimated $200 billion in counterfeit U.S. money is manufactured each year. The U.S. Secret Service is best known for protecting the President, but the agency's original mandate was to safeguard our money.
  • The Con
  • Albert Talton is running a counterfeiting operation and circulates more than $7 million in phony cash around the globe. In 2005, Secret Service agents encounter a bill unlike anything seen before. The cash looks and feels genuine. That spells trouble for the agency.
  • The Operation
  • High-grade counterfeits are usually made with engraved plates and printing presses. That type of set-up is hard to hide, but a digital counterfeit operation can be almost invisible. Finding the Talton's printer will be like finding a needle in a haystack.
  • End Game
  • The homemade money turns up everywhere from upscale retailers to mom and pop operations. The lost revenue creates a widespread ripple effect. Agents in Los Angeles track the bogus money that leads to Albert Talton.
  • The portrait on a genuine US note appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background. The counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat, and details merge into the background, which is often too dark or mottled.

    Only the very best counterfeiters in the world can pull off a bill so good that only experts can spot it as a fake.

  • In the United States alone, there's an estimated $70 million in fake currency floating around. Fortunately, as the technology counterfeiters use improves, so does that of authentic bills. All across the globe, experts are devising high-tech methods to combat counterfeiters. Color-changing ink, special polymers and holographs are just some of the innovative technologies incorporated into today's banknotes. In 2007, the International Association of Currency Affairs began picking the best new count

    In the U.S. alone, there's an estimated $70 million in fake currency floating around. Click to see some of the world's currencies that are most impervious to fraud.

  • Counterfeit Cash

    Supervisory Counterfeit Specialist, Kelley Harris explain how to tell if your money is real or fake.

  • Albert Talton

    See more Secret Service surveillance footage of counterfeiter Albert Talton and his conspirators.