Funny money

Police aren't laughing about counterfeit spree

Counterfeiters have passed several fake bills at local businesses in recent weeks, Craig police said.

In the past two weeks, there have been eight counterfeit bills passed at local retailers and fast-food restaurants, said Lt. John Forgay, Craig Police Department spokesman.

Counterfeit bills are more common during the holiday shopping season, when retail business picks up, Forgay said.

If cashiers take the time to look at the bills closely, however, they usually can tell the bills are phony, Forgay said.

Police find a few counterfeit bills every year, Forgay said. But the bills usually are from someone passing through town, he said.

The recent rash of fake $50 bills and $100 bills at local businesses leads police to think the culprit is a local, Forgay said.

Cleaning dirty money

Counterfeiters make some of the fakes by washing out $1 bills and $5 bills and printing larger denominations on the paper.

If counterfeiters use this technique, Forgay said, the bills will appear real when cashiers use a "detection pen" to test them. Detection pen ink appears in a different color on currency than on regular paper.

Although the bills appear valid with the detection pen, they are very poor quality, Forgay said.

"You wouldn't even want to play monopoly with this stuff," he said.

The majority of the bills have turned up at local banks, Forgay said.

Spotting fakes

Retailers accept the bills, and no one notices they are fake until the bank gets them.

Bank of Colorado officials said they received fake bills earlier this week.

"The bills were particularly bad, although they did pass the ink test," bank President Mark Harmon said.

Because the bills didn't have security strips, bank employees spotted the fakes, Harmon said.

Local retailers also have seen some fake bills recently.

A cashier at Kmart spotted a fake $100 bill Monday afternoon.

The cashier used a detection pen on the bill and found something wasn't right, a Kmart loss-prevention officer said.

"She thought it looked funny," he said.

When the loss-prevention officer took the bill to the back to compare it with $100 bills in the safe, the person who tried to use the bill left the store.

When cashiers realize a bill is fake, it makes it easier for police to track it, Forgay said. When banks find the bill, it can be more difficult to find out where it was used, he said.

"It pays for the merchant to check at the point of sale, otherwise, they're out the money," Forgay said.

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