Thinking about counterfeiting? Stock up on newsprint

When (Albert) Talton set out to circumvent the U.S. Treasury’s security measures, he had no experience in counterfeiting, printing, or graphic design, and he didn’t even own a computer. His first attempts were made with a Hewlett-Packard all-in-one ink-jet printer/scanner/fax/copier, which could be picked up at the time for less than $150.

Early experiments, printed on regular copy paper, were fuzzy, so he cleaned up the original image on a computer. But there was a problem, Talton says: “It wouldn’t take the mark.” Counterfeit-detection pens mark yellow on genuine currency but brown or black on fake. Talton didn’t know why. At first he thought the Treasury treated the paper, so he experimented with chemicals he found at the body shop and even tried dipping his notes in fabric softener. Nothing worked.

Frustrated, he began taking a detection pen everywhere he went, trying it on whatever paper he came across. He was about to give up when one day, sitting on the toilet, he found himself staring at the roll of tissue beside him. He took out the pen: The mark showed up yellow.

Talton discovered that toilet paper, the pages of Bibles and dictionaries, and newsprint are all made from the same kind of recycled paper pulp, and all take the mark. Newsprint is strong, and it has an additional advantage for the large-scale buyer: “Newsprint is real cheap,” Talton says.

What are counterfeiters going to do without a source of “real cheap” raw material for their efforts?

Yet another reason to keep newspapers going.

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