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Banks and businesses seeing counterfeit bills

Dickinson Police Department Detective Terry Oestreich points out the flaws in this otherwise well done counterfeit $20 bill on Wednesday at the Law Enforcement Center in Dickinson.

As cash continues to flow through southwest North Dakota, retailers and banks need to keep a watchful eye on the currency they take in as more counterfeit bills are showing up in the area.

The most common fakes are $20 bills and $100 bills, but counterfeiters are known to copy smaller bills as well.

"We've had businesses and banks call to report receiving counterfeit bills," said Detective Terry Oestreich, the officer handling many of the counterfeit cases for the Dickinson Police Department. "There's a lot of money flowing around town. A lot of the workers here deal in cash, it's a kind of a vulnerable time."

Businesses that accept counterfeit bills are the ones that take the loss, said Carrie Splichal, head teller at Dakota Community Bank in Dickinson.

Counterfeit currency tends to cycle through the area, Splichal said.

"It kind of seems like the counterfeit goes in spurts," Splichal said. "We'll find a couple bills and then you won't see any for a long time."

Because there are so many out-of-state travelers in the area, the counterfeits are coming from both in and out of state, Oestreich said.

"It runs the gamut from some are pretty good to some are really obvious," he said. "I'd say most of them are poor quality."

The markers some businesses use to test large bills' legitimacy may be ineffective as some counterfeiters have begun bleaching the ink from $1 bills and printing larger amounts on the paper. It is illegal to reproduce bills.

The Secret Service, the agency tasked with protecting U.S. currency, even before it was tasked with protecting the president, recommends looking at the portrait, the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals, the border and the serial numbers in addition to the paper the bill is printed on.

"There are several things you need to look at," Oestreich said. "One is the quality of the printing because real currency is very detailed in the quality of printing. And then the next thing you need to look at is the type of paper."

If a bank teller or store cashier suspects a counterfeit bill, they can call the Dickinson Police Department non-emergency line to report the person, giving as much information about the person trying to pass the bill as possible, Oestreich said.

Local law enforcement agencies work with the Secret Service when dealing with counterfeits. Counterfeiting money is a federal offense punishable by a fine, up to 15 years' imprisonment or both, according to the Secret Service.

If a fake bill comes in with a store deposit to Dakota Community Bank, the tellers will contact the business and have them sign a release so the police can try to get as much information about the person who used it from the business as possible, Splichal said.

"You have to just watch," Dickinson Police Capt. Dave Wilkie said. "Everything should look right."

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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