More counterfeit money turned up at local businesses over the weekend, the latest in a series of such cases that have been investigated by city and county law enforcement officers over the past several weeks.
It is a clear sign, investigators say, that another round of fake cash is now in circulation and a warning for all those who receive cash, be it businesses or individuals, to be vigilant in giving money a good look before pocketing it.
“Counterfeiting comes in spurts,” said Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley. “It really depends on who might be making it at the time. What you usually have is one guy who makes it and then sells it. Once it starts being found, it’ll go away again for a while.”
Right now, Tilley said, it seems that “we are in a period where more and more bills are out there.”
It’s true in the city where, just this weekend, management at Piggly Wiggly on College Street reported that someone attempted to pass a fake $10. And it’s just as true in the county where, on Feb. 23,, around 8:15 p.m., a man made a purchase at the Dollar General Store in Salemburg, paying for it with two counterfeit $10 bills.
These are the latest in a string of counterfeit cash reports which have targeted rural stores as well as fast food chains in Clinton.
In some cases, officers said, those passing the bills have absolutely no idea the money is fake. In others, those handing over the cash know exactly what they’re doing.
“A lot of times, people are just spending money they’ve been given somewhere else,” said Sampson County Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Pope. “But that’s not always the case. Sometimes you have a suspect who takes fake cash in and tries to get the change for it, you know swapping bad money for good.”
While it’s generally larger bills, like $100, that are counterfeited and then passed off to merchants, this time around the denominations are smaller — some are $20s but more are $10s and even $5s — and often aren’t as readily checked by store clerks.
“Criminals are smart and they usually adapt to whatever security methods are in place,” Pope stressed. “Most clerks haven’t been checking bills under a twenty. If you have a $20 bill or up, they generally mark it to check to see if it’s real. But if it’s a $10, a lot of times they don’t check, and criminals know that.
“It’s one factor in why the smaller bills are being used right now,” Pope said.
Both he and Tilley urged business owners to have their clerks check all money that is passed, putting it through the tests that can ensure fake money is stopped before leaving someone a victim.
The same, Pope said, would be true of individuals.
“Once you get the cash, it’s you that’s out the money. The last one that handles it is usually the one that’s out the money so, sure, I’d recommend checking it. Hold it up to the light and look for the security stripe,” Pope said.
Tilley also recommended touching the bills and looking them over. “Most of the time, you can tell when the money is fake. That’s not always true, but in many cases it’s pretty easy to spot. I would certainly recommend looking it over good,” the police chief urged.