The Fight Against Fakes

July 1, 2015

Governments and businesses deploy defensive, high-tech paper and printing techniques to combat document fraud

By Laurie Hileman

Governments and businesses deploy defensive, high-tech paper and printing techniques to combat document fraud

The gritty battle to maintain document integrity is a never-ending sequence of strikes and counter-strikes. Low-cost digital computers, copiers, scanners, and printers make so-called “desktop counterfeiters” a constant threat to negotiable and non-negotiable secure documents such as passports, drivers’ licenses, vehicle titles, transcripts, checks, and money orders.

And while document fraud itself may seem relatively harmless, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement considers it a “gateway crime” that paves the way for more sinister offenses such as identity theft, human smuggling and trafficking, gang activity, financial fraud, illegal immigration, terrorism, and other national security threats.

In response, the paper and printing industries are continually creating new overt and covert security features, the likes of which would make James Bond drool. By layering paper-based and print-based security features, their goal is to preserve the integrity and authenticity of important documents.

6 Common Security Features

Security Paper: embedded threads and watermarks

Special Inks and Coatings: color shifting and fluorescent inks or coatings

Complex Imaging: fine line graphical backgrounds and borders, and micro-printing

Secure Appliqués: holographic or prismatic images, and foils

Add-ons: magnetic stripes and RFID chips that contain bearer or other unique information

Changeable Content: check digit numbering and images that alter after copying


Number of different statutes in the U. S. Criminal Code covering frauds such forgery and counterfeiting.

$600 Billion

Estimated cost to businesses from lost income due to counterfeiting, forgery, and other forms of document fraud according to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition.

The (Fake) Benjamin Reigns Supreme

While the most heavily counterfeited banknote in the United States is the $20 bill, outside our borders it’s all about the Benjamin.

  • Two-thirds of the $100 notes in circulation circulate outside the U.S.
  • Of the US$1.15 trillion in general currency in public use, roughly 1 percent of that figure is believed to be counterfeit.