Ocean City Today

Funny money flow typically stronger with crowd influx

By Greg Ellison | May 03, 2018
Source: File Photo

(May 4, 2018) With tourist season about open, Ocean City Police are cautioning merchants to be watchful — and to contact law enforcement — if counterfeit currency shows up in cash registers.

Detective David Whitmer said when the weather warms and the cash begins to flow, some of it is bound to be bogus.

“We see it every summer,” he said.

The competency level of counterfeiters runs the gamut from professional, to those with a more DIY approach, Whitmer said.

“We’ve had a couple of cases … with local folks bleaching five dollar bills [and] turning them into twenties on a printer,” he said.

Whitmer said other perpetrators are more polished, employing professional gear to manufacture far superior counterfeit currency, typically in larger denominations.

“We see hundred [dollar bills] there … those are pretty hard to detect,” he said.

Flashing back on a case a few years back, Whitmer said even top-flight counterfeiters may leave clues.

“We had some guys come down from New York that had a bunch of counterfeit hundreds,” he said. “They were going into local businesses buying … a single pack of Parliament cigarettes.”

Whitmer said that’s one of the “red flag” behaviors that warrants extra attention from merchants: “Somebody buying a small item with a hundred-dollar bill,” he said.

Whitmer said anyone seeking detailed currency verification information, such as watermark and security strip placement, should go online to secretservice.gov/data/KnowYourMoney.pdf.

But not all the polished operators come from outside the region, Whitmer said.

“We had a guy in Worcester County that was printing them on a higher-quality cotton paper,” he said. “He had templates of the bills saved onto a flash drive and he was printing them that way.”

Proper paper stock is a crucial element to producing passable fake currency, Whitmer said.

“They’ll try to buy ... a higher-quality linen paper to make it feel right,” he said. “If you print it on regular paper, it’s immediately detectable when you touch it.”

The first line of defense to foil fake money manufacturers are retail merchants, Whitmer said.

“I know merchants are busy [but] if you look at [the currency] even for a few seconds, you can see something that doesn’t look right,” he said.

Smaller scale phony money producers often use scissors to cut the cash, Whitmer said.

“The cuts won’t be right [so] it’s pretty easy to detect,” he said.

Another recent phenomenon Whitmer noted, is high quality fake currency, generally large bills intended as movie prop money, being passed for the genuine item.

“The second you pass it, it’s a crime,” he said.

While banks typically detect counterfeit currency inadvertently accepted by stores, Whitmer said police prefer to be contacted directly by merchants, regardless of the denomination.

“Instead of the merchants thinking, ‘Oh, it’s just a 20-dollar bill, it’s not worth a phone call,’” he said. “We can at least document it and hold onto that information.”

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