New trend in counterfeit cash: smaller denominations are circulating more


COLUMBUS, Ohio - The next time someone hands you cash, could you tell if it was counterfeit?

Several police agencies are reporting more counterfeit cash getting passed around — and in smaller denominations.

“Previously the lowest bill that we would see would be a $20,” says Lt. B.J. Gruber with the Marion Police Department. “But we have seen instances of tens and even fives and this appears to be the result of counterfeiters taking advantage of the fact that businesses typically do not analyze smaller bills with the same degree of scrutiny.”

Last month, Marion police took in 4 reports of fake $100 bills. In Knox County. Mt. Vernon police made a traffic stop and discovered $500 in counterfeit cash ranging from fake one dollars bills to $5, $20, $50 and $100.

The U.S. Secret Service is tasked with investigating counterfeit money across the country. Allen Biladeau is the Resident Agent in Charge for the Columbus Office. Numbers show counterfeit money passed in the Columbus area grew from 2016 to 2017.

  • 2016, $574,070 in counterfeit money was passed in the Columbus area. (13,402 notes)
  • 2017, $779,478 in counterfeit money was passed in the Columbus area. (17,758 notes)

However, the amount of counterfeit collected in the first three months of 2018 shows a possible decline, with $146,302 in counterfeit money passed.

“I’m pleased to report our monthly Counterfeit intake for Southern Ohio is down (nearly half) as a result of significant coordination and early detection/intervention with all of our local law enforcement and business partners,” Biladeau told CrimeTracker 10 in an email this week.

There are several ways to identify counterfeit money. The U.S. Treasury Department outlines two specific markers: color-shifting ink and security threads.

How to check color-shifting ink

  • Examine the number in the lower right on the front and tilt it back and forth.
  • The number should be green when viewer straight on and black when tilted.
  • Look for visible color change from green to black, not just for shininess.
  • Many counterfeits are shiny, but don’t change color like real currency.
  • There is no color-shifting ink on the $5.00 denomination.
  • Always tilt suspect currency next to genuine to see the differences.

How to check security threads

  • Hold the currency up to the light and locate the security thread.
  • The security thread is in a different location in the paper for each denomination
  • The text cannot be seen unless held up to a light because it is inside the paper
  • If the security thread is visible or shiny on the front or back, be suspicious
  • If the security thread text is blurry or if the thread is darkened, be suspicious
  • Compare the suspect currency with known genuine currency to see differences

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