The holiday shopping season is almost in full swing, and the US Secret Service says it's a prime time to watch out for counterfeit cash.
"Years ago, you had to have some sort of expertise," said Special Agent Todd Hudson of the US Secret Service. "You had to have a graphic artist background. You had to have large equipment that was very expensive. It was a very laborious process. Now, with the advances in technology, computers, printers, scanners and copiers, we've seen a shift."
Even with the introduction of new $100 bills last month, including a 3-D blue ribbon as a security feature, Hudson said the bills have already been replicated locally.
"Nashville was the first reported pass of this particular counterfeit," he said.
Hudson said the most common form of creating counterfeit cash is called bleaching.
"It's a process of removing ink from the original note, say, a $5 bill that has some of the security features I mentioned and reprinting with a $50 or a $100 bill," Hudson explained.
Holding a bill to a light, Hudson showed how he could tell a $5 bill had been turned into a counterfeit $50 bill.
"As you're looking at the watermark here, that's of Lincoln," he said. "The portrait is Grant. The watermark and the portrait don't match."
Another process is called raised notes, where the corners of a bill are replaced to make a smaller bill appear to be one of much greater value.
Hudson said this fake cash is usually good quality and feels like the real deal. That's why it's so hard to catch.
"It's got all the security features, so during the holiday season, in a market place where there's a lot of traffic and people are exchanging currency on a quick basis, you could receive that," said Hudson.
Hudson added, if someone gives you counterfeit cash, you should first and foremost stay safe. Try to get identifiers including a license plate number without letting the person know you're aware the money is counterfeit. Then, call police.
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