Counterfeit bills passed at state fair

By Cathy Logg

Herald Writer

MONROE — Fake currency turned up at the Evergreen State Fair last week, and authorities urge residents and merchants to beware.

About $300 in fake bills have turned up, passed over two days last week, Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Jorgensen said. The bills were $50, $20 and $10 denominations, she said. So far, no suspect has been identified, but the investigation is ongoing.

The phony money will be turned over to the U.S. Secret Service in Seattle once the investigation is complete, according to Wallace Shields, special agent in charge.

The bills passed at the fair were produced using desktop publishing, as opposed to an offset printing press, Shields said.

"Because of the new technology, it’s just as easy for a person who’s going to counterfeit to copy fives and tens and twenties," he said. "This new technology makes (counterfeiting) much easier. We see all denominations."

Merchants, in particular, should check the built-in security features of new bills to ensure that the money they’re handling is real, he said.

"They’re there for the public to see," Shields said.

By holding a new bill up to the light, you can see a smaller watermark image of the president on the bill to the right of the large picture in the center. In addition, there is a vertical line of letters down the left side of the bill.

In addition to those watermarks, the $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills have color-shifting ink. When the bill is held to the light and turned, the color of the denomination in the lower right corner shifts from green to black.

"It takes a level of sophistication that most desktop publishing doesn’t have," Shields said.

The $20 bill is the most common one for counterfeiters to copy, he said.

Individuals and merchants also should check both sides of a bill to ensure they aren’t handling a "raised note" — a bill that’s different on the back than on the front.

Counterfeiters often take a $1 bill and paste the corners of a $5, $10, $20 or larger bill to the corners on the front, but often don’t bother to alter the corners on the back, he said.

"If you check both sides, you’ll catch it right away," Shields said.

If someone passes a counterfeit bill and the merchant or a bank catches the fake, the bill will be seized and turned over to law enforcement, he said. That means the individual loses the money. If authorities have reason to believe the individual is knowingly passing bogus bills, he or she can be charged with counterfeiting, Shields said.

You can call Herald Writer Cathy Logg at 425-339-3437

or send e-mail to logg@heraldnet.com.

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