If you are in any establishment that deals with cash, there are some unspoken rules that many people overlook. The most important of these “rules” is to check your cash. If you are given change, count it. Feel and inspect it. Make sure the amount is correct and that there are no counterfeit bills in the mix. Why is this important? Because as soon as you walk away from the establishment, if the money isn’t right, the only person to blame is yourself.
Although it should go without saying, counting your money is of the utmost importance. You work too hard and do far too much to protect your money only to get ripped off by the ignorant cashier or that bartender who conveniently left that five dollar bill in the register. I’m not trying to say that everyone is out to get you, but people make mistakes. Nobody is going to get irritated or offended if you take a few seconds to double check your bills.
Good for you!
Now that you have made a regular habit of counting your bills to make sure you are not getting shorted, there is another danger to watch out for. There is a good chance you have had some fake money in your hands at some point in your life. Maybe you realized it, maybe not. Perhaps you even passed that note on to another place as if it were a regular bill in circulation. Accidents happen, but you may be unknowingly committing a crime…I’ll elaborate in a moment.
What if I Get a Counterfeit Bill?
If you are given some “funny money”, hopefully you are still standing in front of the person who passed it to you…or at least still in the same building. If you get out the door, you are probably out of luck. If you bring a note into an establishment and claim to have received it there, do not count on getting a replacement. Theoretically, anyone could walk in and claim that they received a fake note there. You would have to find an extremely trusting manager to take care of it for you. If you notice it yourself, and have not left the counter, simply give it back to the person who handed it to you and let them know that it is counterfeit. They may need to get a supervisor or manager involved, but you will get the money owed to you. If a person did not give you the note, you may run into some trouble.
What if I Got the Money From a Machine?
I recently ran into a situation where a customer at the bank received a counterfeit $20 bill from our ATM machine. After consulting with a manager, we were able to verify (to the best of our ability) that the customer actually did get the note from our machine. We refunded the customer and all was well, but we had to make a few calls to the company who services the machine to make them aware of the error. If this were to happen to you, you may not be so fortunate. The best course of action would be to get with a manager or whomever is in charge of the machine that dispensed the money, and hope for the best result…which would be the correct amount of legal money leaving with you.
What if I Pass a Counterfeit Bill?
Here is where things can get a bit touchy. Literally speaking, if you purchase any goods or services with a counterfeit note, you can be charged with a felony. Realistically speaking, if you drop one fake bill on something, you will not likely be charged at all. Most people do not even realize when they are holding a fraudulent bill. You will be out the denomination of the bill, whatever it may be, but most businesses will confiscate the bill and let you pay with authentic money. Try to be aware of when and where you may have taken the counterfeit bills. If an investigation follows, this information can be extremely beneficial in finding and prosecuting the individual(s) responsible.
How Can I Tell if a Bill is not Genuine?
There are literally hundreds of security features on U.S. money aimed at preventing counterfeits. Everything from the “paper” it is printed on to watermarks to intricate printing are all features aimed at preventing fraud. I have seen quite a few “bad” notes in my day, and I can honestly say that of the hundreds that have met my gaze, I have only seen ONE that really had me scratching my head, questioning the validity. It did end up being counterfeit, by the way. If you have a decent eye, and pay close attention to the feel of the bills (the paper is pretty much irreplaceable) you should have no problem spotting a fake.
For resources on spotting these bills, see below.
What Can I do to Get Rid of a Counterfeit Bill?
Rest assured that you will not get this money back. After dealing with your loss, you may have the itch to take down the dirty crooks who produced this note. The secret service wants to know (again, see below). Handle the bill as little as possible. Put it in a plastic bag, and contact the police or your local secret service field office. They will have questions for you, so be sure to remember all you can about the note. More than anything, relax. You are the one who is taking the initiative to report the crime. Unless you have something to hide, the authorities are not gunning for you. Do not hesitate to report the counterfeit and be prepared to cooperate,
Know your bills and how to spot a counterfeit. After seeing one or two, you will realize that well over 99% of counterfeiters can not produce a bill that is close to authentic looking. There are plenty of resources online that have tips and advice to assist you in spotting the bad bills. Read these over, and you will have an eye like a mint employee in no time.