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Spot the signs: Counterfeit bills showing up across metro Detroit

Posted at 4:25 PM, Sep 21, 2022

(WXYZ) — Would you know what to do if you were handed a counterfeit bill? Would you even recognize what it looks like?

As it turns out, counterfeit bills are showing up more and more frequently across metro Detroit and law enforcement is sounding the alarm.

Irene Huddleston is a cashier and manager at Honeybee Market in Detroit. She said her team is always checking to make sure the money they accept is not counterfeit. She’s not happy to hear criminals are once again trying to pass phony tender.

“Now the girls are going to have to work even harder to make sure that we don’t get fake bills,” explained Huddleston.

She said people have tried to sneak counterfeit currency past her before. Fortunately, she was able to spot the bills with a pen some businesses use to spot fakes.

“Every one that I marked was brown, dark brown or black on that bill. And it’s obvious they were fake,” Huddleston explained.

She said her team has been trained and now they’ll be more alert than ever. She also said she’s pretty good at spotting fakes.

“But like I said, you come across some really good ones,” said Huddleston.

Really, really good ones. It’s an unfortunate lesson a man in Rochester Hills learned on Sept. 4, when he was given cash for his car.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard explained what happened.

“In this case, the person was given thousands and thousands of counterfeit bills and then the suspects took off in the car,” said Bouchard.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard speaks on counterfeit transaction

They paid $12,000 in counterfeit $100 bills. The seller only noticed when he examined the fake money, and all the serial numbers were the same.

“We have people in this world that want to take advantage of other people. So it can happen to you. If you don’t think it can, that’s your first step to getting caught up in a scam,” Bouchard said.

Renee Mann and her husband were having one of their biannual garage sales at their home in West Bloomfield recently.

Law enforcement officials say garage sales are a common target for counterfeiters. Mann doesn’t think she’d recognize a counterfeit bill if it had been given to her.

“No. I definitely wouldn’t know,” Mann admitted.

There are security features on American currency to help people distinguish real from fake, but many people are unaware of what they are.

“You know, I don’t think I notice that much. Especially since they’ve changed all these bills,” said Mann.

counterfeit 100s.jpg

Jim Thorburn, a detective with the Allen Park Police department, said there have been a string of incidents in that area, including one right in the department’s own parking lot. Recently, he partnered with the Secret Service to hold a “How to Spot Counterfeit Money” class for the public.

“I didn’t think that that would ever be such a thing but welcome to 2022. People are bold. They just don’t care anymore. And it happened here,” said Thorburn.

He said there does seem to be an origin point of the fake currency in Detroit.

“There is. There actually is. I believe that’s something the secret service is currently addressing at this point,” Thorburn said.

So what can people do to protect themselves?

Thorburn said the special pens people like Irene Huddleston use are not very effective.

“That’s going to tell you if the paper’s real. The paper very well may be real but the denomination, in fact, is not real,” said Thorburn.

Allen Park detective details how to spot counterfeit money in video below

How you can spot counterfeit bills and avoid scams

That’s because counterfeiters will sometimes use small bills and print larger bills on top of them.

However, there are some other features to look for, like making sure when you hold the bill up to the light, the watermark image matches the president printed on the bill, that’s a good indicator.

Another technique that used to work and many cashiers still rely on is by feeling for raised ink on the shoulder of the president on the bill. It should have a raised 3D texture. Unfortunately, criminals have outsmarted that security measure as well.

“They just make the print thick on that part of the coat,” said Thorburn.

So what is the number one thing anyone can do?

“Get a black light. Amazon, Dollar Store. A UV light will always tell you the light of counterfeit money,” Thorburn explained.