Area businesses are being cautioned to give careful inspection of cash received following an early November incidence of counterfeit money in Rushford. An email from the Rushford Peterson Chamber of Commerce went out to local businesses November 13 warning them to be vigilant.
“I’ve had a couple responses thanking the Chamber for passing along the news and I haven’t heard of any other cases,” says Executive Director of the Chamber Jen Hengel.
Counterfeit bills are estimated to comprise less than 10% of all money in circulation. While the impact of counterfeit money is said to have a relatively low impact on the U.S. economy, try telling that to local businesses. The person presenting it for deposit or payment is out the money with no remuneration.
According to Rushford Police Department Chief Adam Eide, this is not the first time counterfeit money has been an issue in the area. The latest incident involved presentation of a counterfeit $100 bill to Kwik Trip in Rushford. Unfortunately, the fake wasn’t detected until it was brought to the bank for deposit. Having no way to track when the bill was used, the company could not confirm who had used it. An active investigation is still underway and a suspect being sought.
“I would estimate it happens a couple times a year,” added Eide. “I don’t believe it has anything to do with the time of year. It probably has more to do a criminal passing through the area.”
In May 2016, Rushford State Bank held an after-hours informational meeting for local businesses regarding counterfeits. Although they were not the financial institution who detected this new fake, the bank is well aware of the problem. “We had a similar incident happen last year,” says Amanda Schmoker, Operations Manager for the bank. “In our situation, there was a counterfeit $20. It was the first time we had received a counterfeit in the 2.5 years I’d worked there.”
“We invited all the businesses in the area to attend, served appetizers, and had some ‘get to know you’ games, as many of our employees were new to the bank,” adds Schmoker. “The employees mingled with the business people and answered any questions they had. There wasn’t a formal presentation, but all the businesses were curious to the bill being presented and no one wanted to get stuck with one like it.”
The bank distributed handouts with each of the U.S. bills and the indicators of validity on each, along with markers that appear invisible on real currency, but turn black on counterfeit money. Some also received an ultraviolet light that illuminates the security thread that is embedded in bills higher than $5. The bank keeps laminated copies of the materials on hand for public viewing. The U.S. Treasury also has in-depth information on what to look for, along with security images of all U.S. currency.
According to the bank, after a bill is received, it must be turned over to the secret service. Holders are cautioned to handle the bill as little as possible to preserve fingerprints.
The most commonly used counterfeit bill is the $20, although the $100 bill is also a top forgery. “Some counterfeit bills are actually real,” cautions Eide. Persons have been known to bleach out the ink on a $5 bill and then copy the images of a $100 bill onto the front and back. “Security pens that businesses use to detect fake bill will say it’s real, but it’s a real $5, not a $100, so the suspect makes off with $95 dollars in change.”
Both Eide and the local banks have tips for staying ahead of would-be counterfeit bills. “I would say feel the bill. Does it feel like paper cloth that real bills are made with?” suggests Eide. “People can also hold a flashlight up the bill and look for a security strip inside.”
While counterfeiters can, at times, duplicate security features, it’s exceedingly difficult to mimic all. Security measures on all bills include raised print, visible by eye, and extremely crisp printing. Any blurry images and the treasury and Federal Reserve caution that it’s likely a forgery. All bills also have a tell-tale feel to the paper, which has cotton woven into the paper for longevity. Not surprisingly, bills don’t last long with frequent handling, so the added securities added in the last 20 years have stepped up the safeguards.
Color shifting ink was added in 1996 to all bills higher than $5. The ink is on the bottom right hand corner of the bill and shifts between a green colors to a copper, when bending the corner in different angles. Recent $100 bills have additional color shifting ink on the inkwell image on the bill.
A hidden image watermark is also present on all bills larger than $5. These are found on the right or left side of the center image and are visible from both sides of the bills. Additional micro printing was also added to these bills and has select phrases printed around the bill’s borders or images.
Security threads woven into the bills $5 or higher are a newer measure and are easily seen, as Eide noted, by holding the bill up to the light. The thread in the bill will alternately read, “USA” and the numeral for which the bill represents, such as “USA 20” on the $20 bill. Under ultraviolet light, this thread appears blue in color on $5, orange on $10, green on the $20, yellow on the $50, and pink on the $100 bill. In addition, the $100 bill has a 3-D security ribbon woven into it.
If you suspect you may have been given a forgery the treasury has suggested protocol. You are urged to not return the bill to the ‘passer’ and to delay the ‘passer’ with some excuse. If possible, observe their description, and those of any one with them, and attempt to obtain a license plate number. Immediately, you are asked to contact your local police department. Handle the bill minimally, but write your initials and date in the white border area of the note and place it in a bag or envelope.