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Literally Lorna: Don't get stuck holding the fake

Lorna Ross has been a contributor for RiverTown Multimedia since 2015.

For the past five years, I've been reading about counterfeit money in the Ellsworth area. I've noticed the bills have been 20s, then 100s onto 10s, then recently a $50 bill was discovered. It's time I share my knowledge of counterfeit money to prevent an innocent person getting stuck holding a fake.

I have experience in handling large sums of money as a casino cashier. The best way to tell a fake from the real thing is to feel it. THere are other ways to detect a replica by using a special marker, a flashlight if you know what you're looking for, or a magnifying tool to view the details of a bill. I will address these methods further, but first I'd like to tell you why you should know this information.

If you accept a worthless bill, that's exactly what it's worth: nothing. When you are given change back, feel the bills and look at them. If they are not worthy, ask for a different bill. I hate to say it, but this goes for banks also. Knowingly passing an imitation bill is a crime. Something none of us want to get caught up in is discovering a forged legal document you just attempted to pass, your name, address, etc. THat is what the police report will state and of course, that takes time out of your day. Not to mention you are out that "value," so the item(s) you tried to purchase just became more expensive. You will find yourself explaining to an officer where you think you received that bill, which delays your day and is awkward and uncomfortable. My suggestion is, educate yourself so you're not out the cash!

How to detect a phony bill:

• Feel—Money is made of 75 percent cotton fibers, not paper, so feel the difference. Also, feel the raised numbers in each corner. Personally, I could never feel that but some can.

• A special marker—These are 100 percent accurate, but a step to help you decide. Use the marker on a piece of paper and you see a black mark; use on money and you'll see a yellow mark.

• Flashlight—Shining from the back side up allows you to see the watermark on the bill. You can't always see this without light. This is why you see some cashiers hold a bill up high into the ceiling light; they are checking for the watermark. Light will also reveal the security strip on a bill; $1 and $2 bills do not have watermarks or a security strip.

• Magnifying tool—This will show the details of the bill's border. Each denomination has a differently designed border and will have the denomination number printed inside the border all the way around.

Eyeballing the bill is another method, but you must know what you're looking for, such as the color of the bill. Have you ever noticed that each denomination has a different hue to it? For instance, $5 bills are a light pink, $10 bill s are orange-like, $20 bills are greenish and $100 bills are blue-tinted.

If the print is blurred, smudged or thick, those are sure signs to look further! An uneven cut around the border deserves another look and looking for the color shift is another way to detect the imposters. Other interesting facts include the motto "In God We Trust," which is on all notes. No living person is printed on a bill.

If you operate a small business, I encourage you to educate yourself on the funny money going around so you don't take a hit. Train yourself, then train your staff. Maybe implement a "larger bills" policy, which states that your business doesn't accept any bill higher than $20. Also, don't trust your source, banks can unknowingly pass along pretend bills and those regular customers you're so familiar with may not know what they've just done.

To give ourselves and the banks a little credit, no pun intended, I understand plastic and paper receipts are handled more often that actual money. This is a long-standing crime but with vigilance, progress can be made in zoning in on these crooks. The crime affects the cost of virtually everything from insurance to socks. With advanced technology, this crime seems to be going strong.

To learn more so you don't get stuck holding the bag, visit www.newmoney.gov.

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