|What people won’t do to make money illegally|
By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
Business owners, bankers and law enforcement personnel took advantage of a counterfeit detection seminar in Imperial Tuesday to learn how to thwart thieves from profiting from bad currency, money orders and more.
Sponsored by Mid-Plains Community College and presented by two Secret Service agents, the seminars were attended by people from Ogallala, Grant and Imperial.
The first seminar with over 20 participants was heavily represented by banking concerns. They were primarily concerned with the detection of counterfeit currency, or paper money.
SA Alex McHugh of the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) in Omaha, told those present that the Secret Service was formed in 1865 by President Abraham Lincoln to battle the counterfeit currency being passed in both the Union and Confederacy.
From that time until 2003 the USSS was under the Department of the Treasury. In 2003 it became part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Up until 2004 all U.S. currency was printed in black or green ink, using the Intaglio method of making a plate of a bill, then inking it and pressing it into paper.
Most other countries were already using multiple colors on their bills to discourage counterfeiting.
McHugh said in 1990 the Treasury began employing a number of other methods to use as clues for a bad bill.
The three most important factors are a security thread that tells the denomination, a watermark that duplicates the face on the bill and a color-shifting ink on the bill’s value in the lower right-hand corner.
The watermark and security thread can only be seen on legitimate bills when held up to the light.
Other ways to determine if a bill is counterfeit is to compare it to a genuine bill, feel the paper, check for micro-printing on the bill, or hold it under an ultraviolet light, where the security thread will glow.
McHugh said there are four ways a counterfeiter will make a fake bill.
The first is called a raised note, or raising a lower denomination bill, say a $1, to a $10 by cutting up two bills and adding the “0” to the lower value bill.
The second method is an office machine copy, which isn’t used much anymore, he said. That method makes color copies on regular printer paper, not the heavier thread paper used by the Treasury.
The third method is computer-generated, which is 90 percent of the counterfeit problem now. Genuine currency is scanned in color, but the paper is still copier paper.
The last method is the bleached note, where bleach is used to remove the dollar amount in the corner. A larger denomination is then printed in the corner, leaving the genuine watermark and security thread in place.
The use of counterfeit postal orders is on the rise. Although investigation of illegal use is up to the Postal Service, the USSS wants people to be aware of the counterfeit ruses.
Postal money orders have watermarks, security threads and ultra-violet properties, as do commercial money orders and cashier checks.
However, counterfeit money orders are used in a variety of scamming methods. Resident Agent in Charge John Gutsmiedl said a man in Scottsbluff lost $70,000, his life’s savings, to some of these scams.
One involves the thief making a purchase over the Internet and paying more in money orders than the product cost. The seller is then asked to send back the balance, only to find out the money order is fake.
No one wins money from a lottery if they don’t play the lottery in the first place, so ignore that letter, the agents said.
If a person is instructed to “wire,” “send,” or “ship” money orders overseas, or to pay money to receive a deposit from another country, it’s a scam.
If a check or money order is connected with communicating with someone by e-mail, it’s probably a scam.
Both agents advocated banks and businesses using ultra-violet machines to check currency, checks, money orders, credit cards and cashier checks for the watermarks, security threads and other built-in safety devises.
The four major credit card companies now have their own ultra-violet marks on credit cards. Drivers licenses and other identifications now have ultra-violet properties.
Travelers checks now use holographic foils, a watermark, security thread and a “smudge test” to attempt to foil counterfeiters from making fake travelers checks.
A question from a banker explained why counterfeiters go to so much trouble to pass along their fake money.
The bank employee said a woman came in with four $50 bills, which were determined to be counterfeit. They evidently had been passed off on her.
Does the woman get reimbursed for that $200 loss, the employee asked?
McHugh said “Counterfeiting is the worst game of hot potato in the world. The last person holding it (counterfeit money) loses.”