Phony Cash

A new round of counterfeit cash recently was used to make a purchase in Franklin County.

The $20 bill of “prop money,” which closely resembles real U.S. currency, was passed at a business in St. Clair between June 28 and July 5, according to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

Prop money often is used for motion pictures and in theater productions instead of using authentic U.S. currency. 

At first glance, prop money can look and feel like the real thing, according to Sheriff Steve Pelton. 

The bills can easily be purchased on the internet and, in this case, the bill that was passed in the St. Clair business clearly was labeled for “motion picture purposes.” Also on the bill it reads “In Props We Trust.”

Pelton said he encourages the public and businesses to carefully examine bills when they are exchanged and be aware some people may attempt to exchange these types of prop bills knowingly to steal goods and services. 

“This is a warning to the public also — not just the businesses,” he said. “We tracked down one woman who said she received the prop money back in change.

”She had no criminal history and I believe that she, in fact, also was a victim,” Pelton added.

The $20 prop bill was reported to the sheriff’s office July 5. In addition, there recently have been fake $100 bills passed in the county.

On Monday, Washington police issued a warning that there could be an increase in counterfeit $100 bills. Police said the department was notified by the U.S. Secret Service because of the rise of counterfeit $100s in the Federal Reserve banking system. 

Fake Bills

Prop cash has been found in Franklin County before, but there are several other ways that counterfeiters pass off phony, or altered, bills.

In October 2018, the sheriff’s office investigated doctored bills passed at a Pacific area fireworks stand.

In that case, a man passed off a $10 bill as $100 and used the phony bill to make a purchase at the store. The bill was tested for authenticity with a counterfeit detector pen, which did not produce a counterfeit mark.

After the counterfeiter left the store the employee turned over the bill to a manager who questioned the authenticity. Upon further inspection they found the strip in the bill indicated it was a $10 bill.

Authorities said it appeared the bill had been washed and reprinted to look like a $100 bill.

The washed bill was not as easy to detect as other counterfeits because it was printed on an actual bill of a lower denomination.

One way to spot a counterfeit bill like this is to hold the bill up to a light. Newer $10s, $20s and higher denomination bills have hidden watermarks. The images and words can only be seen when the bill is exposed to light. When held up to the light this bill indicates that it is a $10 bill, not a $100.

As another wave of counterfeit bills makes it through the area, local law enforcement agencies warn residents to be on the lookout for phony cash. 

Businesses are cautioned to closely scrutinize currency they receive that they suspect could be counterfeit.

They should always double check cash. Consumers also should check any change received from area businesses to see if any of the bogus bucks were passed back as change.

There are many ways to check for a fake bill. One way to check is to feel the money — real bills have a different feel than what is being passed around, authorities said.

The easiest way to check if a bill is bad or not is to look at the lower right-hand corner. On newer bills the number is a hologram that “shimmers” when the bill is moved around. The number appears to change color from green to gold. Counterfeiters can’t duplicate that effect.

Anyone with any information about the motion picture prop bills, or any other counterfeits, should contact the sheriff’s office at 636-583-2560, or local police.