Did you ever wonder what happens to money that’s been damaged in a fire or a flood? Say you’re in the habit of keeping stacks of money in your drywall, and then your house burns down, do you have to say goodbye to those stacks of money?
CBS Sunday Morning recently ran a story about the Mutilated Currency Division of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (“BEP”) in Washington, D.C. On a daily basis, employees receive phone calls regarding damaged money and how customers can, in effect, get that money back.
The BEP redeems mutilated currency as a free public service. Lawful holders of mutilated currency may receive a redemption at full value when mutilated currency is currency which has been damaged to the extent that its condition is such that its value is questionable. The currency must be forwarded to the BEP for examination by trained experts before any redemption is made.
Currency can become mutilated in any number of ways. The most common causes are fire, water, chemicals, and explosives; animal, insect, or rodent damage; and petrification or deterioration by burying. Mutilated currency may also be bills which are missing relevant security features.
In order for the BEP team to determine the value of the currency, more than 50 percent of a note has to be clearly identifiable as United States currency, along with sufficient remnants of any relevant security feature and clearly more than one-half of the original note remains; or, fifty percent or less of a note identifiable as United States currency is present and the method of mutilation and supporting evidence demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Treasury that the missing portions have been totally destroyed.
Every year the Treasury Department handles approximately 30,000 claims and redeems mutilated currency valued at over $30 million. Your money is important. However, please know that heavy volume and the precise nature of the work may result in lengthy wait times. Please follow the submission instructions carefully to help us process your claim in the most efficient manner.
To submit a Mutilated Currency Claim, the damaged currency may be mailed or personally delivered to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Include a legible letter stating the estimated value of the currency, your contact information, and an explanation of how the currency became mutilated. The submission should also contain the bank account and routing number for an account of a United States bank. For reimbursement via checks, provide payee and mailing address information.
Although Treasury examiners are usually able to determine the amount and value of mutilated currency, careful packaging is essential to prevent additional damage.
Oscar Wilde: Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
Understandably, sending the damaged currency to the BEP requires delicate packaging procedures. For instance, don’t disturb the fragments any more than absolutely necessary. If the currency is brittle or inclined to fall apart, pack it carefully in plastic and cotton without disturbing the fragments and place the package in a secure container. If the currency was mutilated in a purse, box, or other container, it should be left in the container to protect the fragments from further damage. If the currency was flat when mutilated, do not roll, fold, laminate, tape, glue or in any other way alter the currency in an attempt to preserve it. If coin or any other metal is mixed with the currency, carefully remove it. Do not send coin or other metal in the same package with mutilated paper currency, as the metal will break up the currency. Any fused, melted, or otherwise mutilated coin should be sent to the United States Mint for evaluation.
Each case is carefully examined by an experienced mutilated currency examiner. The amount of time needed to process each case varies with its complexity and the case workload of the examiner. Standard claims can generally take from six months to three years to process depending on the condition of the currency.
Don’t forget that whoever mutilates currency with the intent to render it unfit to be reissued may be fined and/or imprisoned. And whoever intentionally files a false claim seeking reimbursement for mutilated currency may be held criminally liable under a number of federal statutes. This is certainly not a get-rich-quick scheme. The BEP Director has the final authority for the settlement of mutilated currency claims.