Counterfeit bill turns up in county
As the holiday shopping season reaches the home stretch, shoppers and business owners beware: you could be in possession of "funny money."
A counterfeit $20 bill was identified Wednesday by a local bank and turned over to the Atmore Police Department, according to Chief Danny McKinley.
"The bank forwarded the bogus $20 bill over to us from a local convenience store," McKinley said.
The bank then notified the merchant and forwarded the check to the Secret Service's Mobile bureau, he said.
From there, the Secret Service will conduct an investigation to look for bills that possibly were produced from the same batch.
McKinley said he has seen only three counterfeit incidents this year, the lowest in years, and does not believe this case is related to the others reported this year.
"Periodically these things pop up, but we're not facing anything of epic proportion," McKinley said. "You'll have a bill here and a bill there. It's pretty normal to see a few a year, and most are not connected."
"We haven't seen many counterfeits this year," said Charles Karrick, former Security Officer and current Corporate Secretary for United Bank. "But the (shopping season) isn't over yet, and that's when we see the most."
Businesses should be wary of $20 bills and larger bills, making sure to their best ability they are authentic, Karrick said.
Many businesses utilize counterfeiter detector pens, which, when rubbed against counterfeit bills, can change their color. The Secret Service does not consider this to be a foolproof method of detection, however.
Karrick said there are many other tell-tale signs to counterfeit bills, and the presence of any one of them should raise concern.
"There is a two-toned imprint on the new bills, as well as security strips and other measures to prevent counterfeiting," Karrick said.
The emergence of technology has made counterfeiting an even easier task, preventing the need for large press equipment and difficult to produce stamps. Now, with a desktop computer and high-quality printer, counterfeit bills can be made with much less hassle, Karrick said.
A recent issue of Forbes magazine calls the personal computer a "handy tool for businesses trying to cut their printing bills," but it also cautions that this equipment is "a dream come true for crooks."
This 'dream' resulted in the U.S. Secret Service being able to trace about $6.1 million in computer-generated counterfeit money that was passed in 1997.
"(Counterfeiters) are fairly intelligent people. If they would focus their energy and motivation into more legal pursuits, they would be much better off," Karrick said.
Training and education are key to cutting down on receiving counterfeit bills, Karrick said. The Secret Service does offer classes to some larger businesses on a need basis, and Karrick said his bank invites businesses to its teller training day held periodically throughout the year.
Check with your bank to find out about such programs.
McKinley urges business owners, and consumers, to be wary of fraudulent money.
While he says there are many security foolproof measures available, common sense and education are still the best weapons against counterfeit bills.
"Be sure to educate employees on how to identify counterfeit money, especially during the holiday's," McKinley said.