BY Lindsay Owens Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — City employees received training to help identify counterfeit money last week. The training was in effort to deter the number of counterfeit bills potentially received by city employees who collect money for things such as utilities.
"It's easy to take in counterfeit money and not realize it," said Mike Healy, Chief of Police. "People get in a hurry and they don't always have time to check each bill that comes through. Unfortunately, that's usually when people try to pass the counterfeit money."
While $20's and $100's tend to be the most popular bills to fake, bills of lower denomination are not exempt.
"Sometimes we'll go several months and not have any of the bills come in and other times, we'll get a bunch of fake bills turned in close together. It just comes and goes," said Healy.
The training which was done under the direction of Detective Trent McWilliams and a member of the FBI, discussed the various check points that those handling money should look at before accepting paper currency.
"The whole training was really informative," said Maria Sergesketter, an employee of the Clerk-Treasurer's Office. "I just never realized how easy it would be to counterfeit money but showing us the checkpoints and the differences between the money really helped."
Three of the main things to look for when inspecting money are watermarks, color shifting ink and security threads.
One of the first things that should be checked on paper money is the watermark. Watermarks should be visible from both sides when money is held up to the light.
"They showed us the differences in the watermarks of a real bill and a fake. After looking at them, it was easier to see the difference between the two especially when looking at the portrait and some of the other details. The faces just aren't as distinct on counterfeit money," said Karen Brown, Clerk-Treasurer. "The difference are sometimes so subtle."
Color shifting ink, which can be found on $10's, $20's and $50's, will change from green to black on 1996 style bills and from copper to green on 2004-style bills. The $5 bill does not have color shifting ink.
Security threads, made of clear polyester, are embedded vertically in the paper of the bill and are inscribed with the denomination of the note. The threads will also glow under ultraviolet light.
"They told us that many times counterfeit money is passed off at yard sales too," said Sergesketter.
The FBI also said that people who intentionally pass counterfeit money keep the money separate. "The smart ones will keep the fakes on one side of their wallet and the real money on another side," said Brown.
"We had a great turn out and I think people really wanted to learn how to identify the bad bills," said Healy.
Healy said if someone thinks they have received a counterfeit bill, they should bring the bill to the police station. "If you get money that you suspect may be counterfeit, bring it in and have us check it out. Don't pass it on."
What to do if you receive counterfeit money - Do not return the money to the passer - Delay the person who tried to pass the money if possible - Observe the passer's description and if they have anyone else with them. Try to get license plate numbers and a description of the vehicle. - Contact your local police department. - Write your initials and the date in the white border areas of the suspect note. - Limit the handling of the note. Place the note in a protective covering such as an envelope. - Surrender the note or coin only to a properly identified police officer or U.S Secret Service special agent. The Secret Service, which has a portion of their website dedicated to identifying counterfeit bills, has a check list that the general public can use to help identify the bad money. 1. Check the portrait. Genuine portraits appear life-like and stand out. 2. Check Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals. The saw-tooth points on these seals are sharp, clear and distinct. 3. Look at the borders. The fine lines on the border should be distinct and unbroken. 4. Look at the serial number. Real serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. The ink for the serial number should be printed in the same color ink as the treasury seal. 5. Consider the paper. Genuine currency had tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Counterfeit money often has the red and blue lines printed on rather than embedded in the paper. SOURCE: United States Secret Service. www.secretservice.gov