The targets are the $10 and even the $5 bills once considered too small to bother checking. They’re now flooding the market as they’re mass-produced with increasingly sophisticated and accessible color copiers and inkjet printers.
The initial detective work often belongs to the fast-food and convenience store clerks to whom the bills are passed. But faced with a continuing increase in counterfeiting — more than $54,000 in fake bills seized in Indiana in January, nearly five times the amount seized a decade before — police say they are benefiting from increasingly sophisticated tools as well.
The Wendy’s where Masterson works as a manager is equipped with a computerized verification safe that spits out bills it detects as counterfeit.
“Still,” Masterson said, “when you’re really busy and swarmed with customers and you’ve got a young person at the register trying to hurry, you sometimes find out you have (counterfeit bills) at the end of the day.”
A crime on the rise
So far this year, authorities across Indiana have collected fake bills with a face value of more than $77,000. They came in $100, $50, $20, $5 and even $1 bills — and those are just the ones that got caught.
According to an article in the New York Times in January, the Secret Service — which was created in 1865 to stop the counterfeiting of U.S. currency — seized nearly $81 million in fake money in the fiscal year that ended in October.
Counterfeit cases are common, said U.S. Secret Service Agent Lewis Robinson, because counterfeiting has never been easier.
“You used to need some skills and (some equipment) to counterfeit currency,” Robinson said. “You had to make the negative and make the plate and have the printing press and print the notes.”
“Now,” he said, “with the technology of color copying machines, computers and inkjet printers, all I’ve got to do is put my note on the scanner and scan it — and then just manipulate the images with whatever photo software I have and print it out.”