Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
CASH CON: Don’t be a victim!
Since October 1, 2013, the Fredericksburg Police Department has opened investigations into sixteen cases related to the passing of counterfeit currency. The majority of the crime victims in these reports were businesses in the Central Park retail complex, including Walmart, Quaker Steak & Lube, and McDonald’s, while three of the cases involved food delivery drivers who were provided counterfeit bills as payment . Two of the victims were citizens who received fake currency from buyers who responded to Craigslist ads about high-dollar electronic items for sale.
Among the counterfeit bills passed were $20, $50, and $100 denominations.
There are a number of measures that retailers and members of the public can take to guard against this type of fraud, the most important of which is a strong familiarity with the legal tender that changes hands between buyers and sellers.
The paper used to make bona fide currency is unique and distinctive, and most people are able to distinguish fake money from the real thing because counterfeit bills simply do not “feel right”. You should not ever accept cash as payment from a stranger if you have any doubts about the authenticity of the exchange.
The United States Secret Service is the government agency charged with the mission to “safeguard the nation’s financial infrastructure and payment systems to preserve the integrity of the economy”. On the Secret Service website, there is a lot of valuable information designed to teach citizens how to recognize the difference between genuine currency and phony replicas. Read some more important tips here.
(Interesting trivia from the USSS website: “Notes of the $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 denominations have not been printed for many years and are being withdrawn from circulation. The portraits appearing on these notes are: McKinley on the $500, Cleveland on the $1,000, Madison on the $5,000 and Chase on the $10,000.” So don’t accept cash from these gentlemen!)
Another useful tool to help protect against this scam is a simple detection pen. While not foolproof, the detection pens check for substances in the paper that should not be present if the currency is real. A reaction indicated by the iodine ink in the pen is a sign of a fake bill. Counterfeit detection pens can be purchased at any office supply store.
As a store employee, what should you do if you receive counterfeit money?
- Notify your store manager.
- Do not return the currency to the passer.
- Delay the passer if possible. (Note: The person passing the counterfeit money may not be aware that the currency is fake! If they are not knowingly passing counterfeit bills, they should be happy to wait for law enforcement.)
- Note the suspect’s description, as well as that of any companions, and the license plate numbers of any vehicles used.
- Contact your local police department.
- Limit your handling of the money. Carefully place it in a protective covering, such as an envelope.
- Surrender the currency only to a police officer or a U.S. Secret Service special agent.
Retailers and private citizens who accept payment in counterfeit currency are not reimbursed by the government for their financial losses, so it is important to focus on preventive efforts to keep from becoming a victim. If you suspect that you have been the casualty of a counterfeiting sting, notify the police as soon as possible!
Anyone with information about current or unreported counterfeiting cases in Fredericksburg should contact Detective Betsy Mason at 540-654-5934.