An unspecified counterfeit bill showed up at Wells Fargo Bank in Valley City Monday. Lieutenant Mark McDonald with the Valley City Police Department said the bank received just one counterfeit bill, but he wasn’t sure of the amount. The VCPD forwarded the bill to the United States Secret Service for federal investigation.
McDonald said if someone does acquire a bill believed to be counterfeit, that person should turn it into a local law enforcement agency.
He said one of the main telltale signs in identifying a counterfeit bill is the blue and red fibers in the paper that appear on genuine bills.
“One of the easiest ways to identify a counterfeit bill is to compare it with a bill that you know is real,” he said, adding that all bills excluding the 1 and 2 dollar bill do have water marks, or security threads, that began in 1990.
He also said that authentic bills should be crisp. “If you see a bill that doesn’t have very defined edges on its printing, that instills a red flag,” the lieutenant said. Also, he said, paper used in U.S. currency does have a unique feel.
According to the Secret Service’s website, “The portrait on a bill 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.”
The website also explains that 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.
Plus, 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.
McDonald said, just like everywhere, technology with money is also changing, and he says that relying on counterfeit pens is often not enough.
“The realistic truth is that the pen is only reacting to the presence of starch in the paper, and I would assume the counterfeiters possibly know this, so it’s not foolproof.
Beth Lang, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Bismarck, said the maximum sentence for manufacturing or knowingly passing counterfeit money is 20 years.
McDonald said it’s not common around the area for people to innocently acquire counterfeit money from retailers, for example, but if they do end up with a bill they believe to be counterfeit, they should turn it in to authorities right away.
“If they know it’s counterfeit, it would be illegal for them to attempt to pass it,” McDonald said.
The last time a counterfeit bill came to the VCPD was about a year ago.
“It’s not a common occurrence for Valley City,” McDonald said.