Keep a lookout for funny money this holiday season

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The holiday season is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, and it can be, if we keep things in perspective and don't let our own and others' expectations overpower our better judgment.

Christmas shopping is usually high on the agenda, and merchants count on the gift-giving tradition to meet their budgets for the year.

While many of those transactions are electronic in nature, transferring digits from one account to another through a debit or credit card, many still involve paper currency.

Unfortunately, that same digital technology gives criminals the ability to create better and better counterfeit currency -- "funny money" of high enough quality to fool the unwary.

Three or four counterfeit $20 bills turned up at local businesses in recent weeks, according to the McCook Police Department, and they were most easily identified by having an unusually small white border on the top of the bills.

U.S. currency is including more and more anti-counterfeiting features, but those who create bogus bills are never far behind.

The U.S. Secret Service urges the public to use the following tips for making sure you have a piece of genuine money:

Look at the money you receive. Compare a suspect note with a genuine bill of the same denomination and series, paying attention to the quality of printing and paper characteristics. Look for differences, not similarities.

Portrait -- The genuine portrait appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background. The counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background, which is often too dark or mottled.

Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals -- On a genuine bill, the saw-tooth points of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct and sharp. The counterfeit seals may have uneven, blunt or broken saw-tooth points.

Border -- The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken. On the counterfeit, the lines in the outer margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.

Serial numbers -- Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. The serial numbers are printed in the same ink color as the Treasury Seal. On a counterfeit, the serial numbers may differ in color or shade of ink from the Treasury seal. The numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned.

Paper -- Genuine currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Often, counterfeiters try to simulate these fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper. Close inspection reveals, however, that on the counterfeit note, the lines are printed on the surface, not embedded in the paper. It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacturing of U.S. currency.

More information is available at http://www.secretservice.gov/money_detect.shtml

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