At least two counterfeit $20 bills were passed at Cape Girardeau businesses last week.
“The Cape office received a counterfeit $20 bill yesterday, and the Bank of Missouri said it was the second one in that week,” reported Gina Raffety, operator of the Cape Girardeau License Office, last Wednesday.
Counterfeit bills are not unusual in this area. “We get counterfeit bills every so often — a couple a month,” said Corporal Darin Hickey of the Cape Girardeau Police Department. “We have seen a few lately, but no extreme numbers.”
Business people who think they may have received a counterfeit bill from a customer should contact their local law enforcement for confirmation.
“If they believe it’s counterfeit, we will come out and make that determination,” said Hickey.
“Some counterfeits are hard to tell, and some are very easy to tell. If it’s hard to tell, it may be a sophisticated counterfeiter. If it’s easy, it may just be made on a color copier,” Hickey added. Police officers are trained to identify counterfeit bills.
Cashiers can check the authenticity of bills by using a counterfeit pen, suggested Matthew Kallmeyer, a branch manager at The Bank of Missouri. “If the ink (from the pen) turns dark, it’s counterfeit. If it stays light, it’s real.” Sometimes counterfeiters use real bills and change the denomination. When that happens, the pens will not identify the bill as counterfeit.
Cashiers have additional steps to determine counterfeit money, Kallmeyer said. They can check for a watermark, check the denomination strip that is inside the bill on the left side of $5 bills and above, and look for the red and blue strands that are woven into real currency. These will be missing or won’t look right on a counterfeit bill. Usually counterfeit paper will look and feel different.
If a business doesn’t catch a counterfeit bill, and deposits it with real currency, what happens?
Large deposits are often run through money-counting machines which automatically detect counterfeit bills. Counterfeit bills included in smaller deposits may be caught by bank tellers, who are trained to identify them, Kallmeyer said.
If a bill is found to be counterfeit, is that business out the money? In most cases, yes.
If a business turns in a deposit to a bank that contains a counterfeit bill, and the cashier or counting machine discovers it, the business will be out the cash.
However, on the rare chance a counterfeit bill gets past the teller or counting machine, the bank must take the loss itself.
When a counterfeit bill is given to law enforcement, it is confiscated as evidence. If there are suspects, the counterfeit bill will be used as evidence against them. Counterfeiting is both a federal and state crime. State charges can be brought through the state courts. The local police work with the Secret Service, and if the Secret Service sees a need to take over a case and/or bring federal charges, the local police will get out of the way.
If there are no suspects, a form is completed by the local police. The form is sent to the Secret Service along with the counterfeit money. The counterfeit money is then destroyed by the Secret Service, Hickey said.
The Secret Service offers this advice on its Web site to cashiers who receive a suspected counterfeit bill from a customer:
• Do not return it to the passer.
• Delay the passer if possible.
• Observe the passer’s description, as well as that of any companions, and the license plate numbers of any vehicles used.
• Contact your local police department.
• Write your initials and the date in the white border areas of the suspect note (counterfeit bill).
• Limit handling of the note. Carefully place it in a protective covering, such as an envelope.
• Surrender the note or coin only to a properly identified police officer or to a U.S. Secret Service special agent.
Making counterfeit U.S. currency or altering genuine currency to increase its value is a federal crime and is punishable by a fine and imprisonment for up to 15 years, or both.
The same penalty applies to anyone who possesses counterfeit currency with a fraudulent intent.