COLORADO SPRINGS — It’s a consistent problem that doesn’t really go away, that’s how investigators are describing counterfeit cash being passed around in our communities. News5 dug into what’s happening and the work being done to stop it.
Have you seen one of these signs at the cash register of your neighborhood lunch spot, or frozen yogurt shop? It reads “Not accepting bills over $20”.
It’s becoming a regular request from our small businesses. They’re asking for smaller bills because so many fake large bills are being passed in an attempt to steal cash from their registers.
”So this is a counterfeit $100 bill and if you just saw this laying on a table at first glance you might think oh there’s a $100 bill on the table like most people would,” said Colorado Springs Police Department Financial Crimes Unit Detective Ray Wetzel as he pulled out some examples of counterfeit cash the department has seized. ”This is also a fake $100 bill from an older generation. Now, this bill actually feels pretty good just on touch alone.”
Detective Ray Wetzel has seen counterfeit cash become increasingly sophisticated over the years in Colorado Springs and the people trying to pass it are crafty.
If someone handed you this (fake bill) along with maybe a couple others, or it’s a busy time, or you don’t have the training, you’d probably take this and put it into your till and hand out the change like normal and move onto the next customer,” said Det. Wetzel.
Even with how real the currency seems to the untrained eye there are ways to tell these bills aren’t legit.
”You spend a couple of extra seconds looking at it and you can see some foreign writing, some non-english writing here,” Detective Wetzel showed News5. ”Water marks, embedded threads and those other types of security features.”
Detective Wetzel says people are trying to move counterfeit bills like this in Colorado Springs on a regular basis and it’s all about exchanging the fakes for the real money in the register.
”So, they’re going to try to buy cheaper or inexpensive items with a larger bill like buy a happy meal with a $100 bill for example and then get the real money back and then they’ve got clean money back they can use going forward,” said Det. Wetzel.
That’s exactly how it’s gone down at Lulu’s Frozen Yogurt when employees have mistakenly taken fake $50 bills.
”It feels right and unfortunately they are here for the change,” said Lulu’s Frozen Yogurt Owner Tim Graeff. “They get a $3 or $4 yogurt and they are getting $45 in legitimate cash.”
Graeff says people would be shocked by how often this happens.
”We’ve caught several counterfeits. We have. Most of those customers realize it and they bolt, but there have been some that are legitimate customers and they don’t realize they are holding a counterfeit $50,” said Graeff.
As small business owners like Graeff work to educate inexperienced employees on the issue they’re asking consumers to be sensitive to the challenges by paying with smaller bills.
”The fact of the matter is that cash will always be king. When it ultimately comes down to it. As long as the public is aware this is going on and this is what we’re doing to protect ourselves, smaller bills are much more appreciated,” said Graeff.
In addition to being used at small businesses, investigators tell me fake cash is being used to steal from people selling personal items as well.
According to police, the crooks set up the transactions online and then during the meet up they hand over the fake cash and before the seller has a chance to inspect the cash they take off.
Anyone who is caught trying to pass counterfeit cash could face felony charges.
For resources, advice, and training in detecting counterfeit cash visit https://www.uscurrency.gov/
For Colorado Springs businesses with questions or concerns about counterfeit cash and training you can contact the Colorado Springs Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit at (719) 444-7000
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