The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local Business

November 21, 2012

Police warn shoppers to beware of counterfeit money

Anderson resident says

ANDERSON, Ind. — Money continually changes hands during the holiday season, and with that in mind authorities warn residents to watch for counterfeit currency.

Jennifer Coontz, 38, of Anderson, said she was the victim of what appears to be a rash of counterfeit $100 bills circulating northern and central Indiana.

Coontz said she went to the Anderson Wal-Mart on Friday to cash her paycheck. After cashing the check, she said she went to a gas station to spend the money. One of the $100 bills she used was discovered to be a $5 bill changed to look like a $100 bill, she said.

This has been a common example of forging recently, Anderson Police Chief Larry Crenshaw said. Counterfeiters will use $5 bills, which are similar to $100 bills, and use chemicals to wash the overlay. The face of a $100 is then imprinted. This allows the bills to pass a pen test, Crenshaw said, because they are still bills.

Coontz said the bill was confiscated at the gas station and reported to police, who informed her to return to Wal-Mart to resolve the situation.

She said the management at Wal-Mart told her they could not help her. This left her without money she said was necessary to make ends meet.

“It might not seem like a lot to some people,” Coontz said. “But when you’re a single parent with children, and you have to live paycheck to paycheck, it’s extremely important. And I think people should be aware of it.”

Coontz said she was waiting to hear back from Wal-Mart’s corporate office, where she hopes to get a satisfactory resolution. The management of the Anderson Wal-Mart could not be reached for comment.

Coontz isn’t alone. South Bend police Capt. Phil Trent told the South Bend Tribune that five bills have been used at two different Wal-Mart stores in northern Indiana in recent weeks.

Crenshaw said counterfeiting becomes prevalent during holidays because cash is flowing, and that consumers should be wary. He said the best way to combat the issue of counterfeits being printed on bill paper is to check the watermark. When a bill is held to light, the watermark of the face on the bill becomes visible. For $5 bills the face is Abraham Lincoln, and for $100 bills, Benjamin Franklin.

“As technology becomes more sophisticated, artists can make quality counterfeits,” Crenshaw said. “The best thing that you can do is train yourself to look carefully when you receive money, especially big bills.”

When lines get long at stores and time is at a premium, many shoppers will simply hand money to cashiers and pocket their change without examining it, Crenshaw said. The fast pace of the holidays can add to the trouble.

“It can be an easy thing to forget,” he said. “But it can save you.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Find Jack Molitor on Facebook and @J4keSteel on Twitter, or call 640-4883.

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