Bogus bills surface in county

Published 10:35 pm Thursday, September 11, 2008

Counterfeit money has begun to surface in the City of Jemison – more so than usual, Police Chief Brian Stilwell said.

The department has seized roughly $300 in counterfeit money over the past 30 days, which is more than the city typically sees in a year.

“We’re starting to see a lot of these show up here,” Stilwell said. “We don’t know where it’s coming from.”

Stilwell’s first guess is that people are getting the counterfeit bills in their change elsewhere and then unknowingly trying to spend them in Jemison.

The department has contacted the Secret Service and provided them with information about the recent influx of bogus bills, and is trying to make local businesses and the public aware of the security features in real dollar bills so they can learn how to detect a counterfeit.

The department is giving out “counterfeit kits” to any business owner who wants one. The booklets use photo illustrations to show the security features in different denominations of U.S. currency.

“If businesses would invest in a small, hand-held UV light, it would pick up the encoded security features in credit cards and U.S. currency,” Stilwell said.

While counterfeit detection pens are the most inexpensive way, the UV light is best, he noted, because many counterfeiters are bleaching $5 bills and reprinting them as $100 bills so that pens still react to the paper and thus cannot tell the difference.

A UV light, on the other hand, would reveal the blue fluorescent security strip seen in $5 bills as opposed to the red strip found in authentic $100 bills. The watermark on the right side of newer bills would also give away any counterfeit.

The UV lights are available for about $100 apiece.

Stilwell advises both businesses and customers dealing with large bills, such as at gas stations, to be especially cautious.

“[These cases are] hard to prosecute, so we are trying to make people aware,” he said. “I would encourage them to study the kit and pay attention.”

–Scott Mims can be reached at