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Fake bills still out there: Reports of counterfeits are down, but authorities warn merchants to stay alert

Press Photo by Nadya Faulx Can you spot the Andrew Jackson imposter? It’s not always easy to see the difference, but Bismarck Police Sgt. Roger Marks says you can feel it: “You know what money should feel like, the crispness, the texture.” The phony is on the bottom.

Counterfeit bills in the Dickinson area are down from a spike earlier this year, but they’re far from out, say authorities.

After seeing an increase in fake $20 and $100 bills over the past few months, Dickinson Police Department Detective Terry Oestreich said reports of counterfeit money have “slowed way up from what it was.”

Officers have been taking measures to combat counterfeiters, which The Dickinson Press has written about in the past, but Oestreich warned that fake bills are still being passed along.

A fake $20 bill was found in DJ’s Tesoro gas station bank deposit Tuesday. He warned that merchants should keep an eye out for funny money

“Take the extra time to examine and be careful with the extra bills,” he said.

He said many of the fake bills in circulation now have been made on copy machines.

“They’re not going to feel anything like currency,” Oestreich said. “The quality just isn’t there.”

Fake bills are often made to look worn “to try and mask the fact that they’re not currency paper,” he said.

But there are three tip-offs that a bill is fake: The watermark and left-hand security line, both visible when a bill is held up to the light, will be missing; and the fine print will be blurry.

As Dickinson experiences its own temporary lull, it’s (fake) business as usual for neighboring Bismarck. Bismarck Police Sgt. Roger Marks said 2012 saw 86 reports of counterfeit money while 2013 had 80.

With 26 reports so far this year, “we’re on par to be in that same range,” he said. “It comes in spurts.”

He said the difficulty in tracing the fake bills back to the source lies in where they’re found.

“Most of ours are caught in the bank, not by a specific retailer,” he said. “Once it’s in the banking system, it’s hard to track back.”

Oestreich said this is why businesses need to be aware of what to look for when dealing with money.

“A good number of bills get caught by the merchant who found it,” he said, but “typically, they do get caught with bank deposits. The bank is gonna say, ‘We can’t take this.’

“People who take these bills are stuck with them.”