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Rash of counterfeit bills seen recently in Charles City

Rash of counterfeit bills seen recently in Charles City
A real United States $20 bill. An uptick of counterfeit bills have been spotted in Charles City recently. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

By Kelly Terpstra, kterpstra@charlescitypress.com

It may look real, but like Monopoly money, it’s as fake as a $3 bill.

Charles City Police Chief Hugh Anderson warned the public to beware of counterfeit bills floating around the area after a rash of phony cash has been spotted in Charles City in recent weeks.

“We just got some on a search warrant the other day. We’ve been running into it quite often – taking a lot of reports of people getting them in businesses and private individuals,” said Anderson.

In addition to the counterfeit money that has been popping up at businesses and banks around the area, there have been reports of bills that look real but are stamped with Chinese symbols on them. Anderson said these fake bills can be purchased online. He said two Charles City juveniles were recently charged with possessing the bogus bills.

“Those are actually fake ones used by the Chinese for training purposes, supposedly,” said Anderson. “They sell them on eBay. That’s what they claim they’re for.”

Further research on the Internet indicates that one can purchase fake $100 bills with Chinese markings on them in a roll of 100 for as little as $10.

Cashiers and bank tellers do have ways to tell whether bills may be no good or if the money is actual legal currency. Anderson said there are built-in security features on real money that can enable handlers of the cash to determine whether or not a bill is legal tender.

Some of those visible features that appear on real money include color shifting ink, raised printing, watermarks, security strips and ribbons.

One of the best ways to determine whether a bill is fake or real is holding it in your hands.

“The big thing is normally they are going to feel differently,” said Anderson.

There are also pens that can be used that indicate fake currency when marked on a bill. When the mark made by the pen is black, it is usually counterfeit. When the mark is light brown, the bill is legal and not fake.

Anderson said his department scans the bills once they are confiscated and the fake cash is then entered into a central database to see if they have been circulated across the state with the same serial numbers.

“Some of them that we found being used here are actually the same bills being used in the Mason City area. We know they’re connected, somehow,” he said.

Anderson said he wasn’t quite sure why there has been an increase of fake bills popping up in Charles City.

“I’m not sure why it’s trending up right now. We have an uptick of them. We just had somebody take three $100 bills when they were selling an item on social media and all the $100 bills were counterfeit,” he said.

One of the agencies that the Charles City Police Department contacts when locating counterfeit bills is the United States Secret Service. The agency was created in 1865 to investigate and prevent counterfeiting, among other duties.

Anderson warn people who may possess or attempt to use fake currency.

“If you do use them, we will charge you,” he said.

Anderson said most of the bills that have been turned over to law enforcement authorities in Charles City have been in $20 denominations.

“But we do get those 100s once in awhile. It’s usually when somebody is buying something large,” he said.

Anderson also wanted people to be aware that counterfeit bills can attempt to be pawned off as real at about any place where a cash transaction is possible.

“We’ve had people that have taken them in trade for services or goods. It’s not just limited to businesses. In fact, a lot of times they think they’re going to pass them off easier to somebody who doesn’t have that pen,” said Anderson.

Due to advances in printing technology, some fake money can be very hard to detect. Anderson described one method that forgers or counterfeiters try to use.

“So what they do is, they’ll bleach out a $5 bill and make it into like a $50 bill. They’ll pre-print it, so when you hit the $5 bill, it’s still going to read the paper as good — because it’s printed on the real paper with the cotton in it,” he said.

Anderson said anyone who comes across money that appears to be counterfeit should contact the Charles City Police Department at 641-228-3366.

“If you have questions about it, give us a call,” he said.

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