With the holiday sales rush, merchants may not always have time to check every currency bill given to them by a customer. Counterfeiters are getting more advanced, and while there are some who don't print bad money well, merchants, bank personnel and others need to check out anything that looks or feels suspicious.
Special Agent Rich Hudson of the U.S. Secret Service spoke this past week with members of the Brunswick Economic Development Committee and Greater Brunswick Area Chamber of Commerce about different ways criminals print money and what to look for.
Hudson talked about how he had gone undercover offering to buy counterfeit money from a person in Elkton who was using a $30 ink jet printer.
"He asked if I would give him a $50 bill to use for the printing, but I couldn't give it to him because that would be entrapment. The guy sold me drugs for $50, and I arrested him," Hudson said. The criminal got five years in jail.
Although it is easier to use an ink jet printer, the quality of the product is not as good. The watermark -- a small image of the president on the bill in the upper right hand corner of the bill -- doesn't show with that process.
One of the biggest mistakes for crooks is using paper instead of the linen-type material used to make real money.
"It feels different, it wears different," Hudson said.
Merchants may use a counterfeit detection pad, which checks whether it is paper or material. However, crooks coat the fake money with a clear spray that makes bills appear real. The reason is that iodine used in the pad doesn't soak into the paper and show it is counterfeit.
"I don't recommend counterfeit detection pads," Hudson said.
The special agent revealed how crooks made mistakes from putting the wrong president -- either in the watermark or even on the main part of the bill -- on denominations of currency. Another mistake is using the improper ink as ink on the real bills turns from green to black if the bill is looked at from different angles.
Hudson said one crook even printed only one side of the fake $20 bill. Many merchants didn't even look at the bill's other side. The crook was caught when he kept using the fake bills at McDonald's, buying an item and getting the change. A McDonald's employee saw the crook simply pocket the money and throw the food away and the authorities began tracking the person.
"There is a lot of junk out there," Hudson said, but there are counterfeit bills made in a complex process that can fool most anyone who is not familiar with currency.
The process may entail a real bill, such as a $5, and using a chemical to remove the ink, then printing on the linen material a higher denomination such as $50.
Using a printing press with precise forgeries, crooks can create bills that are virtually the same as the real thing. Most of that is done out of the U.S. and smuggled in.
Hudson showed a "novelty note" that depicted former President Bill Clinton on a "sex dollar" bill. Such notes are not illegal. There are regulations about using the image of currency in advertising, requiring the image to be larger or smaller or modified from the real money.
A native of Massachusetts and graduate of Boston College, Hudson said when he saw "Miami Vice" on TV, it spurred him to enter the law enforcement field.
"The police were driving Ferraris, had cool clothes and attractive women," Hudson said, smiling.
He served in vice with the Dallas Police Department for more than eight years.
"I was working a counterfeit case and the Secret Service was involved," he said. "I was able to get a position with the Secret Service."
Brunswick Police Chief Milt Frech said anyone suspecting counterfeit money should contact the police. ___
(c)2012 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)
Visit The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.) at www.fredericknewspost.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services