- — Now, "why would you print up a couple of million in counterfeit? Depending on the technology you are using, you could just print up some to go out on a Friday night," he said.
Statistics highlight the growth: In 1995, less than 1 percent of fake bills were produced on digital printers. In the last fiscal year, nearly 60 percent of the $88.7 million in counterfeit currency recovered in the U.S. was created using inkjet or laser printers, the Secret Service says.
Most of the digital counterfeiters produced a few hundred or thousand in fake bills, the Secret Service said. Others were more industrious. Last month, a 37-year-old self-taught graphic artist was sentenced to 12 years in prison for leading a counterfeiting ring that manufactured $1.4 million in fake $50s and $100s.
Overseas, it remains a different story. Most of the fake $68.2 million in U.S. currency recovered last fiscal year was churned out by offset presses, the Secret Service says, because these highly efficient "counterfeiting mills" can more easily escape detection by U.S. authorities and even operate with the backing of corrupt governments.
Though counterfeit bills make up only a tiny fraction of the $1.27 trillion in circulation, law enforcement officials and federal prosecutors say they aggressively target money forgers to protect consumers and business owners and the larger U.S. economy. Last fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, the Secret Service made 3,617 counterfeiting arrests.
The U.S. Treasury has also responded to the technological threat. In the mid-1990s, it introduced the first major redesign of U.S. bills in six decades. Testifying before Congress in 2010, Larry Felix, the director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, said the design changes were needed "to combat the emergence of a new category of counterfeiters who were increasingly using computers, scanners, color copiers and other emerging technologies to replicate notes."