Counterfeit cash spotted in Colorado mountain town

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IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Police are trying to educate businesses and consumers about counterfeit cash after fake bills were found.

The Idaho Springs Police Department said four counterfeit bills have been turned in since September. The most recent case happened on Friday near Loveland Ski Area.

“One was at a local grocery store where they passed a bill at the customer service desk and it was missed,” chief Christian Malanka said.

Counterfeit $20 passed at a restaurant near Loveland Ski Area

Counterfeit $20 passed at a restaurant near Loveland Ski Area. (Photo: Idaho Springs Police Department)

When counterfeit bills are passed, it is a total loss for businesses who might have given the criminal real cash as change, as well as whatever merchandise was purchased.

Customers can also accidentally end up with bogus bills if they get one back as change from a business or personal transaction.

“They are becoming increasingly easy to miss,” Malanka said.

When checking cash, one of the most fool-proof ways to detect real U.S. currency is to check the bills under a black light. The security stripe will glow a bright color, and each denomination appears differently.

  • $100 bill glows pink
  • $50 bill glows yellow
  • $20 bill glows green
  • $10 bill glows orange
  • $5 bill glows blue

A small hologram copy of the portrait on the right side of the bill can be checked. The small portrait should match the portrait featured on the bill, and it should only be visible when held up to the light.

“The reason you’re able to see the hologram is because the thickness of the paper varies, so that is very difficult to duplicate,” Malanka said.

The density of the ink is also difficult for counterfeiters to copy. If you rub your finger or fingernail along the collar of the portrait on a bill, you should be able to feel some vibrations from the texture. The ink is not flat along the portrait's collar on U.S. bills.

Also, double check the lines and illustrations on the bills. Everything should be crisp, not muddy or fuzzy.

Backside of a counterfeit $20 bill passed near Loveland Ski Area. Photo courtesy of Idaho Springs Police Department

Backside of a counterfeit $20 bill passed near Loveland Ski Area. (Photo: Idaho Springs Police Department)

“A lot of [counterfeit] bills are simply made on medium quality to high quality inkjet printers,” Malanka said.

Currency is made with plates, not printers.

“We think it is worth taking a little extra time to be vigilant,” he said.

Experts also warn against solely using counterfeit detecting pens to check cash.

As the quality of counterfeit money improves, it is beginning to mimic the paper U.S. currency is printed on, which is creating some false-positives when fake money is tested.

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