Fake bills increase in holiday shopping

More counterfeit bills are popping up in area cash registers and wallets, and investigators are preparing for the season of fake money.


As the holiday shopping season gets closer, the frequency of fake money appearing tends to increase, said Sgt. Randy Hayes, of the Richmond County Sheriff's Technical Crimes division.

"It's gone up a little bit," Sgt. Hayes said, "but it will pick up worse during the holidays."

Recently, he said, authorities have been seeing people "washing" the ink off $5 bills and printing $20s or $100s on top.

"These color printers are killing us when it comes to stuff like this," he said. "We'll get twenties that have Abe Lincoln watermarks on them."

The technology for making fake money is outpacing authorities' ability to detect it, according to James Klugh, the general manager for Kmart on Washington Road. He said the pen many cashiers use to mark and detect fake bills is being foiled by new counterfeiting techniques. Mr. Klugh keeps one of those bills, a ten, posted on the wall in his office.

"It's scary," he said. "With counterfeiting it's probably going to be a tough year. The best thing you can do is increase the awareness of the personnel."

Cases involving counterfeit bills are classified as first-degree forgeries and are not tracked separately by the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. Forgery cases have increased from 856 between January and September 2008 to 907 during the same time this year, according to sheriff's office statistics.

October, November and December were the three highest months for forgeries in Richmond County last year.

Columbia County averages a dozen to 24 forgery cases a year, sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said. He said the county had no cases in October.

"It fluctuates month to month," he said.

Aiken County has yet to experience any uptick in counterfeiting, Sgt. Dave Myers said. He said the holidays are a difficult time for such cases because more people are out spending money.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.


To learn how to spot counterfeit bills, visit secretservice.gov or moneyfactory.gov.


- Look at the portrait on your bill. A real portrait appears lifelike and will stand out from the background. Fake ones are often flat, and details merge into the background.

- On real currency, the saw-toothed points on the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are sharp. The counterfeit seals might have blunt or uneven points.

- The lines along the border of a real bill are clear and unbroken. On a fake, the lines and scrollwork might be blurry.

- Real serial numbers have a distinctive style and will be evenly spaced. They are printed in the same color ink as the Treasury Seal. On a fake bill, the numbers might be in a different color and not uniformly spaced.

- Check the paper. Real currency has tiny red and blue fibers embedded in it. Counterfeiters will try to copy the fibers by printing red and blue lines on the paper.


It's important to check your money as soon as you receive change, said Richmond County sheriff's Sgt. Randy Hayes. Look for signs of a counterfeit bill before you leave, otherwise you might be stuck with it. If you find a counterfeit bill, contact local law enforcement.