In July, the sheriff’s office recovered six fake bills, but this month there has been only one.
“It comes in spurts,” Sgt. Randy Hayes said. “Sometimes they’ll hit us like crazy.”
He estimates that the sheriff’s office handles at least 100 cases every year.
According to the Secret Service, counterfeiting is one of the oldest crimes. During the American Revolution, U.S. currency was counterfeited in such large amounts that it became worthless. During the Civil War, about one-third to half of all bills were counterfeit.
In 1865, the Secret Service was established to suppress the crime.
The Federal Reserve has made bills harder to counterfeit, but advances in photography, printing and computer technology have also made the process easier for criminals. Some of the bills Richmond County confiscates can be spotted as fake easily, but with others it’s more complicated.
Hayes said the bills are easier to pass in crowded, dark areas, such as bars and nightclubs. Often the business doesn’t realize until too late.
The pens many businesses use to weed out counterfeit money can be useless against a smart counterfeiter. Sprays on certain papers will cause the bill to pass the pen test, as will washing a low-value bill to turn it into a higher-value one.
The only true way to know is to look at the number in the lower right corner. On $10 through $100 bills, the numbers will shift from either copper to green or green to black when held to a light.
Though some of the fakes are made locally, investigators believe many of the bills passed in the area are coming out of Atlanta.
The Federal Reserve estimates that 0.01 percent of the value of all U.S. currency is reported counterfeit.
The $100 bill is the most frequently counterfeited. To any innocent person or business with the bill, it’s a loss. The counterfeit bill cannot be traded in for a genuine bill just because the victim is innocent.
Investigators advise people to look at their change. If it looks strange, ask the person for another bill. Businesses and banks have been known to pass the bills unknowingly.
Hayes said he’s cautious when he finds someone with a fake bill. The person could be an innocent carrier.
“One bill you can understand, but you get to five or six (in their possession) there’s a problem,” he said.