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Banner: Detecting the Truth: Fakes, Forgeries and TrickeryBanner: Detecting the Truth: Fakes, Forgeries and Trickery

Detecting Deception


What has more security features than an undercover agent's secret lair? Canadian banknotes, of course!

To put off counterfeiters, most countries issue bills that use a range of technologies and techniques to make forging money as difficult as possible. Our recent banknotes have different (and really cool) security features!

Security features on the front side of new $5 bill

Security features on the front side of the new $5 bill

Security features on the reverse side of new $5 bill

Security features on the reverse side of the new $5 bill

UV features of new $5 bill

UV features of the new $5 bill

Details of watermark (ghost image) of new $5 bill

Details of watermark (ghost image) of the new $5 bill

The upgraded $5 bill (in circulation since November 2006) is a counterfeiter's worst enemy. Here's what makes it virtually "un-forgeable":

  • A holographic stripe with multi-coloured maple leaves that "move" when the bill is tilted
  • A watermark portrait (or ghost image) that can only be seen when you hold the bill up to the light
  • A colour-shifting thread that is woven directly into the paper
  • See-through numbers that only look complete when you hold up the bill to the light
  • Raised print that you can feel by touching the bank note
  • Tiny, fine-line printing that is very sharp when looked at closely
  • Fluorescent elements (words and numbers) that are only visible when the bill is looked at under ultraviolet light

To spot a counterfeit bill, you can't just look at it and take it at its word. You should touch it, look through it and tilt it back and forth. This way, you can let the security features do the talking! If shopkeepers, cashiers and customers become good at recognizing forged bills, counterfeiters will have a harder time getting their fake banknotes into circulation. And then everybody wins!

Often, stores are equipped with special "counterfeit-detecting" gear, like ultraviolet lights, to help them identify and refuse forged bills. Ask them to show you what a bill looks like under ultraviolet light. You'll be amazed!

To learn more, visit the Bank of Canada website:

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Tricks of the Trade

Raise the bill to the light. There should be a "ghost image" hidden in money. Can you find it?

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banknote: paper money issued by a central bank and used as the country's money
counterfeit: an imitation of a document or object made to fool people into thinking it's the real thing. It's another word for forgery, most often used to describe forged money. Counterfeiting is a serious crime.
holographic: a three-dimensional (3D) image made by laser technology
security features: devices added to an object to protect it and make it harder to counterfeit
ultraviolet light/UV light: a kind of light, invisible to the human eye, that makes certain colours shine brighter
watermark: a unique mark, lettering or design made on paper during its production and visible when the sheet is held up to light. Once made, the watermark can never be removed.

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