A Wauseon fast food restaurant was the most recent victim of counterfeit money, and the chief of police said retail businesses must take an extra few seconds to examine incoming bills for authenticity.
According to a city police report, Wendy’s Restaurant at 1440 N. Shoop Ave. was notified Saturday by the bank where it makes cash deposits that a fake $20 bill was included in the money. The bill will be forwarded to U.S. Secret Service to verify it is counterfeit.
Counterfeit money is an ongoing problem in Wauseon, with one or two bills on average being discovered each month, Police Chief Keith Torbet said. In most cases the person passing the phony money is from out of town, and will hit three or four retail locations in the city before moving on to another community.
He said people often pass the money when the business is busy and try to target a younger, less experienced cashier. And the process to counterfeit has been simplified with the advent of color laser printers.
“It has become easier. You can go to Walmart and pick up a three-in-one printer,” Torbet said.
The denominations most copied are $20, $50, and $100 bills, although with color printers so accessible $5 and $10 bills are also copied.
Because legal tender is printed on a cloth-like material rather than paper, counterfeiters attempt to make fake money feel like the real thing. But it’s still easy to spot. A fake bill will not show security features placed into real money, such as a hologram, noticeable fibers, and a security strip.
“It’ll look different, it’ll feel different,” Torbet said. “If you put the two side-by-side, unless it’s really good you’ll be able to see the difference. (But) even an experienced clerk, when they’re busy and trying to get the customers through, won’t take the few extra seconds to look. And if they are looking at the bill, the counterfeiter will leave.”
Still, most retail businesses use a special marker that detects phony bills, he said.
Counterfeiting is a federal crime, and the penalty increases with the amount of bills being passed, a spokesperson for U.S. Secret Service in Toledo said. If it’s a small amount the agency will leave the punishment to local authorities, who begin with at least a fifth-degree felony charge.
Torbet said printing bills from sophisticated copiers has actually made it easier to catch counterfeiters, and prosecution is always the result. He said people who believe they’re in possession of one or more counterfeit bills should bring them to the police department.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-4010.