Police say this counterfeit $50 bill was passed at a Steamboat Springs convenience store in October. Police say this bill was not of especially high quality.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Police say this counterfeit $50 bill was passed at a Steamboat Springs convenience store in October. Police say this bill was not of especially high quality.

Steamboat detective: There are ways to detect fake bills

Police say business owners need to know the feel of money to prevent fraud

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A real $50 bill is shown here. There are several ways to tell real bills from counterfeit bills, police say.

— The difference between real currency and counterfeit bills may be hard to see, but Steamboat Springs police Detective Jerry Stabile said it’s much easier to feel the difference.

After a counterfeit $50 bill was passed at a Steamboat Springs convenience store in October, Stabile said it’s important for business owners to know how to spot the difference.

“The way most people detect counterfeit bills is from feel,” he said. “It just feels different because it’s paper, and our currency has fabric that’s woven into it.”

The $50 bill was detected a day after it was used, and Stabile said that unless businesses are insured against it, the business will be the one to lose the money.

“You are holding the bag if you accept it,” he said, or if the police make an arrest, the money may be repaid via restitution.

The $50 that was recently passed in town was not especially high quality, Stabile said.

That bill was printed on regular paper and was noticeable from its texture.

Stabile said that a known counterfeiter recently was released from jail, and police are on the lookout for any new instances of counterfeit bills, but so far none have been linked to the man. Police reviewed surveillance footage of the recent incident but were unable to identify a suspect.

Stabile said that because there are so many counterfeiting methods, there is not one sure way to identify a fake bill.

Currency pens, used by cashiers to test the fabric of a bill, are one of the most popular ways to detect fake currency. But it’s not foolproof. Stabile said one counterfeiting method is to take a $5 bill, wash it with caustic chemicals and reprint it as a $50.

In that case, the currency-testing pen would not recognize the difference, because the fabric would be authentic. But there are other signs to look for.

The security strip woven into U.S. bills of $5 or higher includes the denomination of the bill, and the larger the denomination of the bill, the closer the strip is to the center of the bill.

Stabile said that a few years ago, many high-quality counterfeit bills were passed across Colorado. The investigation in that case involved the Secret Service, and about 10 people were arrested. In most years, he said, Steamboat will have three or four fake bills passed, along with several fake travelers checks.

Police notified the Secret Service about the most recent fake bill and are investigating.

Stabile said it’s important for the person accepting the bill to be attentive.

“Just trust your instincts,” he said. “The majority (of counterfeit bills) we get notified of, the way they describe it is that it just didn’t feel right as they were counting it.”

For more ways to detect fake currency, click here

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