Friday, September 10

Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

Recently I was reading about the production of paper money. United States currency is printed on special paper made by only one company using methods they never divulge. It has a distinct feel, and can be easily recognized by people who handle lots of currency, like bank tellers and store clerks. If you were to try to counterfeit US money with different paper, it could be detected by feel alone. So counterfeiters often bleach a lower value bill and print a higher value on that paper. There are ways to detect the counterfeit without too much effort, but the feel remains the same and most people don’t notice the fraud.

In 1865 President Abraham Lincoln created the Secret Service to find counterfeit bills and their makers. These days they don’t bother much with monetary denominations below $5 or $10, putting their main effort into catching 20s and up. And this is where a golden opportunity comes in. They never look for counterfeit $1 bills. You could bleach a bunch of fives and make a killing in ones without ever being caught! What could be safer? Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Sometimes I think counterfeiters aren’t very bright.

Here’s a more involved way to get into counterfeiting that nobody else has thought of either. Make up a phony currency from a country that doesn’t even exist, like the 100 gomer note of Boogalü, an imaginary middle-Asian country. Make the bills attractive and colorful, maybe featuring pictures of kittens, rainbows, spotted mushrooms, and unicorns. Go to a small rural bank with a bunch of bills to exchange for dollars. The teller will have never heard of such a banknote, so—and this is the really clever part—you pull out your iPad or smartphone and call up a Web site that lists current values of various countries’ money. Since you’re the creator of the site you can pick any value you want for Boogalüese money and publish it there. Let’s say you decide that 100 gomers is equal to $50, which certainly sounds reasonable. Most people believe what they see on the Internet, so you can walk out of the bank with as much money as you want. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

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