‘Funny money’ in circulation

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 28, 2008

AHOSKIE – Troy Fitzhugh, Chief of the Ahoskie Police, is urging local businesses and banking institutions to be on the lookout for “funny money.”

“We’ve had two recent cases of counterfeit $20 bills showing up at one of our banks here in town,” Chief Fitzhugh said. “In lieu of this, we’re asking our banks and businesses to please be observant of all 20-dollar bills. Hopefully, we’ll be able to catch the person or persons responsible for knowingly passing these fake bills.”

Once the counterfeit currency is discovered, the bills are packaged and sent to the United States Secret Service for further analysis.

Chief Fitzhugh said the bills appear to be authentic, but failed to pass the “ink” test, one where a special pen is used to mark a thin line across the bill. However, these pens can only indicate whether the money is printed on the wrong kind of paper (they react to the presence of starch). As such, they’ll catch some counterfeits, but they won’t detect more sophisticated fakes and will give false-negatives on real money that’s been through the wash.

Fitzhugh said there were other ways to check for the authenticity of U.S. currency. They include:

Compare the bill with another of the same denomination and series.

Look for blurry areas, especially in fine details such as around the borders, real bills have clear, unbroken borders, and on the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals, where the sawtooth points should be sharp and well-defined in genuine bills. Portraits in fake bills may appear dull, blurred and flat, while in real currency the portraits are sharp and contain very fine detailing.

Look for colored strands in the paper. All U.S. bills have tiny red and blue fibers embedded in the paper. Counterfeiters sometimes try to reproduce these by printing these strands onto the paper, but if you look closely, you’ll see that they are printed on, rather than being part of the paper itself.

Hold the bill up to the light and look at the watermark. The watermark portrait should match the printed one.

Examine the serial numbers. Make sure the serial numbers on a bill match and look at them carefully. Fake bills may have serial numbers that are not evenly spaced or that not perfectly aligned in a row. If you received more than one suspicious bill, see if the serial numbers are the same on both bills….that’s a dead giveaway you’ve got a couple counterfeits.

“Anyone who encounters what they believe is a counterfeit bill is urged to contact us (252-332-5011) or your nearest law enforcement agency immediately,” Fitzhugh said.