So far in September, New Lenox police have been called twice by businesses that unwittingly took in counterfeit bills. On Sept. 8 employees at the Barber's Chair on Route 30 near Vine Street took in a $10 counterfeit bill, and Walmart lost $100 to a phony money scam on Sept. 1.
Deputy Chief Robert Pawlisz said counterfeit bill passing is a sporadic problem in New Lenox, and the amount of loss varies. Most retail stores have detector pens at the cash register, and the clerks are trained to carefully eye ball $100 and $50 bills. The problem is that counterfeits more often than not come in the form of $10 and $20 bills, he said.
The counterfeiters know how to take advantage of a situation. They wait for a busy evening or Saturday to pay for a few innocuous purchases. Their order might be something like a bag of cough drops, a package of T-shirts and a gallon of milk. This isn't going to arouse suspicion, he said.
Patty Burgin, bank teller manager at LincolnWay Community Bank, said counterfeit bills are frequently passed during the holiday season. That's when the clerks are the busiest. The store's goal is customer service, and that means speedy check out, she said.
The criminal element that lurks within communities is well aware of those kinds of circumstances, and a counterfeiter is going to take advantage of it. She advises people to be alert when accepting currency from gas stations and fast-paced stores around the holidays. Those are the places that counterfeiters are apt to unload phony bills.
"The counterfeit bills are more often than not going to be a $20 bill," according to Burgin.
Pawlisz added that busy clerks won't generally take time scan a small denomination with a detector pen or hold it up to the light to inspect for identifiable characteristics.
Nevertheless, there are a few characteristics of a counterfeit bill that are fairly simple to notice. "For the most part it depends how in-depth (the counterfeiter) gets." Frequently a bill is scanned and then reproduced on a high quality printer. Still that won't hold water with detector pens—they pick out the fake—and the weight of the paper is tough to match, even with a high-grade stock.
A sophisticated counterfeiter will wash and bleach a $1 bill and then print over it with another denomination. A detector "pen reads it as real," according to Pawlisz.
In the banking industry, this process is known as "raised bills," said Burgin. If the money is deposited by the business, then bank scans will discover the fake.
Another hint in spotting counterfeit bills is the way they feel, added Burgin, a 25-year-veteran of the banking industry. "The bills might have a waxy feel" to them, and they don't just don't weigh the same.
In the past, the bank has held workshops in the art of detecting counterfeit bills for local businesses. However, none are currently planned.
A poster hanging in the New Lenox Police Department is used as an educational tool for officers and the public on the chief features that mark authentic U.S. currency.
- Paper: Currency paper consists of 25 percent linen and 75 percent cotton and small randomly disbursed red and blue fibers are embedded throughout the paper.
- Portrait: Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs) are varied depending on the year they were produced. Pay attention to the portrait—it's always slightly off-center.
- Watermark: a faint watermark of an image similar to the portrait is visible from either side of the bill when it's held up to a light source.
- Color-shifting ink: the lower right-hand corner of $5 bills shifts from green to black or from a copper color to green.
- Security thread: a genuine bill will have a clear polyester thread embedded vertically in the paper. The thread is inscribed with the denomination of the FRN; the thread is visible when held up to the light.
For more detailed information, click the link to the United States Secret Service.