Real or not real?

When shown side by side, a real $20 bill (above) and a counterfeit (below) look nearly identical. However, there are some differences found when inspected more closely, such as the “replica” under the bottom righthand “20” and the difference in color the Counterfeit Detection Pen (right) made on each. True U.S. currency will produce a yellow or gold color, not the rust color found on the counterfeit.

Hannah Taulbee/The Logan Daily News

LOGAN — Concern arose Monday morning as Darlene Savely, owner of Flowers by Darlene, discovered a counterfeit $20 while helping a customer in what appeared to be a normal transaction.

“I thought it was just washed, but it didn’t mark correctly, so that’s when I called the police,” Savely explained. “While I was on the phone with them, we realized that it said “replica” right on it.”

The counterfeit bill was worn and creased to look older and more legitimate, but there are some noticeable differences upon a closer look. The counterfeit bill is missing a watermark, says “replica” on the front and back, and has incorrect signatures for both the Treasurer of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury.

“I thought that if you printed a replica of money, it had to be smaller or larger, so that it can’t be used as counterfeit, but this is the exact same size,” Savely noted. “If it hadn’t marked wrong, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.”

While not a usual occurrence, Savely has encountered possible counterfeit money in the past, and so marks all bills worth $20 or higher. After the incident Monday, the business owner shared that she would be more cautious with even smaller bills in the future.

Even without the word “replica” printed on the bill, many business owners or individuals who deal with money on a regular basis are often able to tell by the feel of the paper, or the quality of the ink, which is why counterfeiters will wash the fake money to try to replicate that material.

“I’ve also had bills that didn’t feel right that did mark correctly, so I’ve taken it to the bank across the street and had them look at it. The clerk ran it through their system and it passed, but I like to make sure if there’s a question,” Savely said.

“Counterfeit bills can be hard to detect, especially when they’re passed during a transaction in a small town like this one, because you don’t think about it,” Logan Police Captain Ryan Gabriel stated. “Luckily, Logan doesn’t see a noticeable amount of counterfeit reports; we have probably less than 10 bigger counterfeit reports a year.”

While finding counterfeit money in the city’s circulation is something that doesn’t often cross the public’s mind locally, Gabriel noted that there are larger groups in Columbus that print their own money and flood certain surrounding areas with as much as they can before they are found out.

“We’ll let local businesses know if we’ve gotten reports of it happening close by, from more than one business, or one business in particular that has been hit a few times over a weekend or something,” the Captain explained. “We keep track of these things and try to detain and interview the individual, if we can, but we won’t know if it’s a widespread event until we hear from others in the area.”

Although authorities work to get the counterfeit bills out of circulation as quickly as possible, some odd bills may fall through the cracks and continue to be passed around.

“When it’s a busy day or you have a long line of customers, you may not have time to check every single bill that comes in,” Gabriel said. “Then, if it stays in the till, it can be handed to a customer as change and just continue in the system. I know, personally, I don’t check my bills when I get change from a place I trust.”

Despite the hectic days some business owners or retailers might experience, some faster ways have been created to ensure the validity of U.S. cash, such as the Counterfeit Detector Pens, which can be purchased from various stores that provide office supplies.

These pens change color based on the material being tested. Using the most recent counterfeit as an example, the pen made a rust-colored mark while the real $20 bill showed a yellow or gold colored mark.

The United States Secret Service also provides citizens with access to an informational document through their website, www.secretservice.gov, where interested parties can find information on how to check bills worth $5 to $100. This information can also be downloaded or printed for easier access.

Although the federal government is the primary investigator into counterfeit cases, the local law enforcement agencies have the right to detain, interview and charge individuals on a local level if it is found that the passing of counterfeit money was on purpose.

“When people find or encounter what they think could be a counterfeit bill, they should contact law enforcement,” Gabriel advised. “We don’t have the advanced technology to check, we would use something like the pen, but we can help determine if it is or not, and if it was possibly used on purpose. After that, we make a report of it, take it out of circulation, and it is either sent to the Secret Service or kept in our evidence room.”

Individual residents are also able to submit their own counterfeit note to the U.S. Secret Service by visiting www.usdollars.usss.gov and following the instructions. First time use will require a registration, which will take additional time.

“Things like this ebb and flow in our area and fortunately it isn’t a huge issue,” Gabriel stated. “It’s just wise to be mindful of it, because they do pop up occasionally. Let law enforcement know, and check out how to check the different bills from the Secret Service website.”

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