The phrase “It’s that time of year again” his taken on a whole new meaning for law enforcement in Star Valley. According to Alpine Police Chief James Phillips, the arrival of June means area residents and business owners need to keep an eye out for bogus bills. “It’s time to be watching out for counterfeit cash again,” Phillips said. “For the past two years, at about this time of the year, local businesses and individuals in Star Valley have had counterfeit cash passed to them for the purchase of goods and services. These people and businesses were just a few among millions who get hit every year with funny money and get stuck with the losses.”
According to Phillips, bogus bills are a nationwide problem.
“In 2002, authorities seized $130 million in fraudulent U.S. notes worldwide before they were circulated, and detected $44.3 million in counterfeit U.S. currency after it had passed into unwitting hands,” Phillips said. “Unfortunately, with the bad economy and the ease and speed with which large quantities of counterfeit currency can be produced using modern photographic, printing and computer equipment; counterfeiting is on the rise.”
For victims of counterfeit cash crimes, there is currently no recourse, Phillips.
“If you or your business ends up with a counterfeit bill you get hit twice,” he said. “The goods are gone and the paper is worthless. So what do you do? You call local law enforcement, because just possessing the counterfeit is a federal crime, and you can’t pass it on because if you do so knowing it is counterfeit you could go to federal prison. As the adage goes: the best offense is a good defense. You can help guard against forgery losses by being more familiar with your currency. When in doubt compare any suspicious bill with a known genuine bill.”
The following are a few details provided by local law enforcement that can help to determine if a bill is fake or not.
• The paper of genuine American currency has a unique feel to it because of it’s high cotton content. Many counterfeits are detected simply because they don’t feel right. Genuine currency paper also has tiny red and blue fibers embedded into the paper.
• Is the bill the right size, is the printing to the right scale, are the edges of the bill cut straight and square, are the colors right, do the colors run or smudge with a little bit of water?
• Real currency printing is very crisp and detailed due to the very specialized Intaglio printing process used in the production of genuine currency. The ink is not pressed into the paper, rather the ink sets on top of the paper giving it a distinctive texture that can be felt by dragging a fingernail across the fine ridges of the bill, such as in the portrait.
• The genuine portrait appears crisp and lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background, whereas counterfeit portraits are usually lifeless and flat. The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken. On the counterfeit, the lines in the outer margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.
• Many of the newer bills also incorporate color shifting inks that change color as you bend them or change their angle in the light.
• By holding the bills up to the light you will be able to see the embedded security thread and the watermark in most bills. That security thread will also glow florescent under a black-light or other UV light source.
“Some banks and office supply stores sell counterfeit detection pens that react to the chemical composition of a counterfeit bill causing a color change,” said Phillips.
If someone does try to pass a counterfeit bill, the following are tips on what you should do.
• Take the bill, don’t give it back to them to pass to someone else.
• Politely tell them that you suspect it is a counterfeit bill and that you have called the local authorities to investigate.
• Ask for valid (non-counterfeit) payment.
• If they get upset or argumentative, don’t put yourself at risk, call law enforcement immediately. Get as much info about the person as possible (name, description, etc.)
• If they just run away, get a driver and vehicle description and a direction of travel and call law enforcement immediately.
“If it happens again this year we’d really like to catch the person or persons passing bad money in Star Valley,” said Phillips. “To do that we will need the public’s help.”