Rumor has it that the strip in hundred dollar bills can be “detected” through electronic means – that authorities at airports, borders or even tollbooths are able to determine how much cash money you have on you without asking you to open your wallet or purse. While no one has been able to demonstrate that the government has this ability, your US passport may contain a chip that contains information about you.
In an old X-Files episode, a character rips apart a twenty dollar bill to extract a plastic strip, claiming that “Whenever you go through a metal detector at an airport, they know exactly how much you’re carrying.” And it’s easy to see this polyester ribbon by holding a bill up to the light. But the ribbon is simply that: a strip of plastic to make counterfeiting cash more difficult. There’s no evidence that American currency is “trackable” via radio frequency, magnetic ink or any other method.Of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence: for those who suspect that undiscovered methods exist for nefarious forces to track currency, there’s the 1M Hauly Heist from SDR Traveller. Designed for delivering cash payrolls to remote workforces, this bag can transport a million dollars in hundred dollar bills with protection from the elements. The bag also incorporates a Faraday cage – a lattice of wires calibrated to confound radio waves. Since a Faraday cage blocks radio waves, it’s also good for keeping laptops, tablets or cell phones from being tracked or detected as well.
There is a government document that does contain a chip – since 2007, American passports have incorporated a RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) chip inside the back cover. This chip serves as an anti-counterfeiting measure and contains the same data available on the identification page of the passport: name, address – even the photograph. Although the State Department maintains that the metallic paper in the back cover of the passport book blocks the chip from being read unless the cover is open, some have taken to mashing the back page of their passport with a hammer to destroy the resonator – although Faraday cage-style travel wallets are available as well.