Atlanta Consumer Alert: Lookout for a Holiday Spike in Counterfeit Cash

Counterfeiting money is one of the oldest crimes in the US, dating back to the early days of this country. While the Secret Service has done much to curtail the use of counterfeit money, the large American economy makes it an obvious target for fraud. This crime costs Americans $600 billion a year according to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition. As the economy speeds up for the holidays and malls become hectic with Christmas shoppers, the United States Secret service advices that the passing of fake cash could become an even greater problem.

Consumers and businesses should expect to see more counterfeit bills, advised special agent Jeffery T. Gilbert.

“We cannot reiterate enough how important it is to look at your money,” said Gilbert. “Counterfeiting is a crime of opportunity. And it can be devastating on a business, a family, even our economy.”

Improving technology, particularly in the field of color copy machines, has made counterfeiting easier than ever for creative counterfeiters. By bleaching $5 bills and reprinting them as $100 bills, they are able to put their fake money on official US treasury paper. These fake bills on real paper are able to pass the counterfeit pen test.

There are many ways to tell if a bill is fake, even when it is printed on the correct paper. The Secret Service web site offers the following advice:

- The portrait on a genuine bill ought to stand out from the background, while that on a fake will appear lifeless or flat. Details in the back ground often seem too dark and lose distinction, merging together.

- The Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear and distinct on a real bill. On a fake bill, they may appear uneven, indistinct, or the saw-tooth points may seem broken.

- The borders on a counterfeit bill may seem blurred or indistinct. On a genuine bill, they should be clear and unbroken.

- A genuine bill has blue and red fibers woven into the paper throughout; they are embedded in the paper, not printed on the surface of it as in a counterfeit bill. Reproducing this distinctive paper is illegal.

- Serial numbers on a genuine bill are printed evenly spaced, in a distinct and consistent color and style. On fake bills, the numbers may vary, be too closely spaced, or otherwise differ from legitimately printed serial numbers. Serial numbers should be printed in the same ink as the Treasury seal.

- Suspect bills should be compared to a genuine bill of the same denomination to check for differences in portrait, serial number and vignette. Look for differences, not similarities.

- Bills of $500 denominations and above are no longer printed, and are being withdrawn from circulation.

Presently, the Secret Service is not seeing a localized spike in the Atlanta area, but given the risks, and the opportunity of consumers and staffs overwhelmed with the yearly holiday frenzy, there is still reason to be vigilant here. There is more than enough stress surrounding the holiday season without financial woes brought on by counterfeit money.