Tips for spotting counterfeit bills

There is plenty of fake money in circulation, especially twenties. But there is a way to avoid getting stuck with counterfeits.
March 7, 2014 9:01:33 PM PST
There is plenty of fake money in circulation, especially twenties. Innocent shoppers do get caught spending it, not realizing it's fake. But there is a way to avoid getting stuck with counterfeits.

Counterfeit is much easier to print these days, according to Andy Adelmann, special agent in charge at the secret service.

"Anybody who can hook up a printer to a computer or use a scanner or copier, that's the kind of counterfeiting we're seeing," he said.

Adelmann showed 7 On Your Side a table full of phony bills made by real crooks.

Fake bills are out in circulation. You might get one without knowing it. And if you're caught spending it, guess who's out the money? You are.

"Whoever's sort of last, holding it so to speak is the victim," Adelmann said. The last one holding the bag."

Spending it can also turn an everyday shopper into a counterfeit suspect.

"Certainly a person of interest," Adelmann said. "We'd go interview and find out how did they get it."

It happened to Oakland resident Justin Real. He got a cash refund from one store and found out it was fake when he tried to spend it.

"I was handcuffed in front of the store," he said.

The key is to spot a phony before you accept it.

"Take the extra one or two seconds to see that the water mark is there," Adelmann said.

The new hundreds should have Ben Franklin's face in the watermark and 3D images in the blue stripe. Counterfeiters have been to known to bleach smaller bills and print a hundred over them. That would result in Abe Lincoln's face in the watermark.

The twenty is the most commonly counterfeited bill. Many are spent many times before they are identified as a counterfeit.

Adelmann says examine your cash.

"Take the extra second or two. It all adds up to not being a victim," Adelmann said.

Counterfeit money is most often passed at small stores, gas stations and restaurants. You may get some if you accept a cash payment, change or a refund.