Funny money not so funny to businesses

Although counterfeit money isn’t common in Findlay, it does show up, Crime Prevention Officer Brian White told a crowd of business owners Thursday morning at Coffee Amici.

The event was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and First National Bank.
White said the most common places to pass counterfeit money are businesses close to Interstate 75. But the bills have come into downtown as well.

“You’re talking about 1 in 4,000 bills (are counterfeit),” White said. “So your chances of coming across one is pretty good.”

Jen Fulton, of Buggy Whip Bakery, attended the event and said she once got a counterfeit $5 bill at a downtown coffee shop. She said she turned the bill in at the police station.

But $5 bills are not the most common bill used in counterfeit schemes, White said. Typically in the U.S., the $20 bill is used.

Kelley McClurkin, of Bread Kneads, said she found the talk very informative.

“Every business owner should attend these and inform their staff,” McClurkin said.

White said there are specific features in authentic bills that businesses can refer to:

• Fake money is often made with different paper than the cotton-fiber blend the U.S. government uses. Counterfeit bills may feel papery as compared to a real bill.

• Business owners can look for embedded security fibers in authentic money. The marks can be photocopied, but in a real bill, they will be embedded.

• Security strips can be found in bills that were made in the 1990s and after, White said. The strips are embedded in the bill and glow under UV light.

• A watermark should appear on the right side of a $20 bill that shows the president on the bill. These watermarks are found in bill series from 1996 and later.

• On a real bill, “optical varying ink” will shift from gray to green depending on the angle the bill is tilted.

• Microprint is a final thing to look for. The marks on a true bill should be clear when viewed under a magnifying glass.

White said business owners should invest in a machine called a counterfeit bill detector that “reads” the security strips using UV light. Most office supply stores have these machines, he said.
White said the machines are more reliable than counterfeit pens, which only look for the kind of paper the counterfeiters usually use.

He cited an example where a $5 bill was bleached and reprinted as a $100 bill, and passed at a gas station in Findlay. The counterfeit pen would not have caught this bill, he said.

The cashier only realized the bill was counterfeit because she put it into a counting machine that read the strips and counted the bill correctly as a $5 bill instead of a $100 bill.

“That’s probably the most ingenious one I’ve seen,” White said.

White said business owners should also make sure their cashiers are attentive to bills even when the store is busy, because that’s when more counterfeiters will try to pass the bills.

He also recommended having a policy in place to deal with counterfeit money. Tactics should include stalling the suspect while calling the police, and pointing out suspicions to the customer with the bill, since that person is more likely to be carrying the counterfeit bill unknowingly, rather than being the person who actually made the counterfeit bill.

White said money that comes out of a bank machine has a low chance of being fake, because the money placed in the ATMs is shipped directly from the Federal Reserve. But bank tellers can still accidentally pass fake money, he said.

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