Local dealer warns of phony money

New $20 bills, holiday season increase threat of fraud

Knowing what to look for might make the difference between profit and loss for local business owners and workers who accept cash during business transactions.

Jim Everett, a coin dealer at the newly opened Tiah's in Craig said he believes there's an increased threat to businesses of receiving phony money considering a combination of the new $20 bill design and the upcoming Christmas holiday.

Everett spoke to members of the Downtown Business Association recently about the perceived threat but was surprised by the community's comments.

"Some people didn't know that the bill had been counterfeited only two weeks after it came out," he said. "Other people hadn't seen a new twenty yet. Most of the time, places that get hit are small towns because nobody suspects it."

In his profession, Everett gets weekly updates on counterfeit money claims. He said some counterfeit $20 bills have shown up nationwide in places such as a Radio Shack, school lunch rooms and a number of convenience stores.

While the new $20 bills have several features to thwart counterfeiters, becoming familiar with the new design may take some training.

That's the next step for Kmart employees said manager Derek Zuver.

"The company just sent us training guides so we can detect counterfeits," he said. "The new twenties are easy to photocopy, so we want to be prepared."

Kmart employees already run distinguishing markers across $50 bills and $100 bills to check for counterfeits, he said.

In the last year, Zuver said the store handled a couple of counterfeit cases.

The new $20 bills have a few differentiating factors including peach, green and blue colors. The words "USA Twenty, Twenty USA," float to the right of former Pres. Andrew Jackson's head. A water mark on the right hand side and a security strip down the left side of the bill are other telltale signs to help handlers distinguish authentic bills from their fake counterparts.

"Another thing I check for is the serial numbers especially if I get a lot of one kind of bill," said Everett. "If a lot of the serial numbers are the same, it's a dead giveaway."

Everett said he personally hasn't encountered any phony bills, but he learned the lesson via a friend who owned a business in Denver and unknowingly accepted counterfeit money.

Counterfeit money is usually confiscated and the owner can't receive credit after law enforcement officials discover it. An investigation may pursue if law enforcement link phony bills to a spending trend.

New $50 bills and $100 bills are set for printing in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

The increased liability of local businesses inadvertently accepting the larger sums increases a business' potential for loss, Everett said.

"The new twenties are easier to make than bank checks," he said.

"I'm not worried about the problem for myself because I know what to look for. It's important for the public to know what to look for especially when the $50 and $100 bills come out. It was really bad timing for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to do this before Christmas. They probably should have waited."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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