New products, Protecting yourself

DNA dye: the new way to mark bank robbers

Jay MacDonald

I’ve been thinking about robbing a bank.

Well, not literally. For that, you’d need something faster than a minivan, more threatening than a golden retriever, and a getaway crew you could trust not to punk you at the curb, bag in hand, while they post the video to YouTube. And frankly, I don’t look good in stripes.DNA dye the new way to mark bank robbers

It’s the bank robbery process I’ve been pondering, not the act. And the process has taken a very interesting turn in recent years, thanks to a Stony Brook, N.Y., research firm called Applied DNA Sciences that’s giving cash something it’s never had before: an identity.

We’ve all seen countless movies and TV cop shows where the bank robber lugs out a cash box full of dead presidents with a secret dye pack hidden inside. The dye pack explodes, turning the crook into a red Smurf and effectively ruining the bills. While an unscheduled dye job can certainly help deter robberies, it rarely ties Papa Smurf to the crime.

Enter Applied DNA Sciences, which has figured out a way to both trace stolen currency to its rightful owner and link the loot to the bank robber in court. How? By hosing down the lifted loot with a dye containing plant DNA that’s been genetically coded and assigned to the individual bank, ATM or even armored car cash box. It’s a lot like the way nature assigns our children to us, without the fun bits.

While the patented SigNature DNA part of the dye is invisible to the eye and cannot be copied, altered or removed, its presence is easily detected by police with a handheld ultraviolet light. Anyone exposed to the SigNature smoke or spray is microscopically marked with the unique DNA identifier as well, helping law enforcement get a leg up on the bad guys.

For trial purposes, Applied DNA forensically authenticates recovered SigNature bills at their labs in the U.S. and Great Britain, leaving no doubt as to who owns the money.

If you’re thinking this DNA spray might have other valuable applications, you’re right. SigNature has put a unique genetic face on more than a billion products from passports and electronics to clothing and fine wine to combat counterfeiting, fraud and theft. The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency uses DNA tagging to make sure the military materiel we all pay for, from brake shoes to semiconductors, come from the original manufacturer and not some knock-off shop.

While U.S. banks are certainly interested in recovering cash taken by force, their exposure to bank robberies on these shores has been on the wane the past several years, despite the recession and entrenched unemployment.

But in Great Britain and Western Europe where armored car heists are far more commonplace, Applied DNA’s magic spray is already thwarting robberies and nailing bad guys for such major cash-in-transit carriers as Loomis.

Thinking of robbing a bank? Don’t; it’s become much too difficult.

Now you have to ask the bills for ID.

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, we ask that you do not disclose confidential or personal information such as your bank account numbers, social security numbers, etc. Keep in mind that anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company's business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.

  • Bisi Olaoye

    We need this dye product urgently to prevent bank robbery in our country.