A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Officials warn Kentuckians to beware of fake and counterfeit money scams while holiday shopping

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The offices of Kentucky Attorney General and State Treasurer are alerting consumers and retailers to scams involving fake and counterfeit money during the holiday shopping season.

In the last month, police departments in two Kentucky cities have received complaints regarding the use of illegitimate currency. In one scheme, a scammer paid for goods with fake, movie production money, which can be easily attained. In the other case, a scammer altered authentic one-dollar bills to imitate $20 bills, which enabled the bills to pass a retail “pen test.”

Counterfeit money is on the rise and the attorney general and treasurer’s offices are warning consumers to be careful. (Photo from Kentucky Today)

“During the holidays, Kentuckians should be on guard for scammers who attempt to make payments with counterfeit currency,” said Attorney General Daniel Cameron. “We encourage anyone who encounters suspected counterfeit currency to report it immediately to local law enforcement and our Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-432-9257 or online at ag.ky.gov.”

Treasurer Allison Ball reminded Kentuckians that forged or counterfeit money is not an accepted form of legal tender.

“Between the pandemic and the holiday season, we are seeing significant increases in scams and counterfeit money,” she stated. “I urge you to take the extra few seconds and examine any suspicious dollar bills that come through your hands. This is the season for many craft sales, holiday goods, and small shops to pop up and cash is the most frequent tender. Remain diligent in your financial best practices and report anything you see.”

To avoid accepting or receiving worthless or counterfeit currency, Kentucky consumers and retailers should:

• Carefully study the currency before accepting payment. Look for unusual wording or markings, such as “prop copy,” “in props we trust,” or “for motion pictures purposes, not legal tender.”

• If receiving multiple bills, ensure each note has a different serial number on the bottom of the bill. Fake bills may also have serial numbers that are not perfectly aligned.

• Ensure all bills (except $1 and $2 bills) have security thread (a plastic strip) running from top to bottom. Hold the bill up to a light to see the strip with printed “USA” followed by the amount of the bill. Amounts are spelled out for $5, $10, and $20 bills; they are numerical for $50 and $100.

• Consult reputable sources for tips regarding recognizing counterfeit currency, the U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. Federal Reserve System’s U.S. Currency Education Program.

For additional information on detecting counterfeit money, visit the Secret Service’s website at www.secretservice.gov.

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