smart spending

6 common but illegal money habits that can get you in big trouble

Defacing US currency
Defacing U.S. currency © iStock

Defacing US currency

Dollar bills and other U.S. currency aren't meant to be run through the clothes washer, written on or chewed up by pets. Yet, while accidental damage to currency normally isn't illegal, deliberately defacing it is.

Federal law prohibits any action that mutilates, cuts, defaces, perforates or glues together U.S. currency or otherwise renders bills unusable.

"It really becomes illegal if you deface it in any way," Dickens says. "When I say, 'deface,' that means you make it unusable. A merchant won't accept it; if it's been glued, it won't fit into a vending machine."

The law doesn't offer specific examples of usability, but common sense should apply.

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