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Counterfeit $20s being circulated

During the last three months, an unusually high number of counterfeit bills were sighted in the Park Rapids area. "Counterfeiting does still happen, and people do try to intentionally pass bills," said Park Rapids police investigator Brian Goldammer.

During the last three months, an unusually high number of counterfeit bills were sighted in the Park Rapids area.

"Counterfeiting does still happen, and people do try to intentionally pass bills," said Park Rapids police investigator Brian Goldammer.

Recently, Goldammer reported, an individual attempted to use three counterfeit $20 bills at a convenience store in Park Rapids.

The clerk tested the bills and determined their illegitimacy, but gave the bills back to the customer, he said.

A concerned citizen noticed the transaction and reported the incident to the State Bank of Park Rapids, said assistant vice president of operations Darcy Fritze.

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Fritze added it would be unusual for an unsuspecting person to possess three counterfeit bills at a time.

"In my 14 and a half years of working here, we've seen maybe 10 to 15 counterfeits come into the bank," she said.

Citizens National Bank head teller Carla Schaap said about eight $20 bills came into the bank in mid- to late December.

On average, only one or two counterfeits a year circulate through to the bank, Schaap noted.

Goldammer said three individuals in the Bemidji area were apprehended around Christmas time for counterfeiting.

Some business owners and employees are unaware of the proper procedure for dealing with counterfeit money, said Northwoods Bank representatives Heidi Pachel and LeAnne Tate.

Cashiers who receive suspected counterfeit bills should confiscate them and call the police, said Tate.

"It is in their hands," Pachel agreed.

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Goldammer recommends cashiers try to get a good description of a suspect, if they are uncomfortable detaining them. Descriptions of vehicles and license plate numbers are especially helpful, he added.

Goldammer said counterfeiters generally attempt to pass bills during busy times when money is likely to be given less scrutiny.

Forgers usually buy a small item at a store to get the most money back from their purchase, Goldammer said.

Merchants who tender counterfeit bills cannot be compensated by the bank or Federal Reserve.

"Even as a bank, if we get the money counted, then, if we catch it, the bank takes a hit," said Fritze.

Proper bank procedure includes notifying local authorities and sending the bill to the Federal Reserve for testing, Tate said.

New currency has a number of additional identification features, explained Tate.

The Federal Reserve started watermarking currency $5 dollars and greater. Bills also contain strips bearing their value, which can be seen when held up to a light, Tate said.

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New color-changing ink appears alternately green or black, depending on the viewer's angle.

The Federal Reserve continues to print bills on special paper containing red and blue fibers, she said.

Banks often make counterfeit pens available for retailers. The color of the mark left behind indicates whether a bill is a counterfeit or not.

Fritze cautioned against relying solely on counterfeit pens. "I can tell you they don't work all the time," she said.

An advanced forgery technique known as "washing" removes ink from a current bill and prints a higher currency on it instead.

A bank in Grand Forks recently discovered a washed $100 bill by examining a watermark. They found a watermark of Lincoln on it instead, said Tate.

Most counterfeit bills can still be easily determined by a slightly different size or coloration, Pachel said.

"Basically, you look at it. The paper is a tip-off. The texture of the paper gives it away," said Tate.

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