Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Wed, August 28 2013 at 6:21 PM, Updated: Wed, August 28 2013 at 7:05 PM
New numbers released on Wednesday out of the Medford Police Department show a drastic increase in counterfeit money in Medford.
Between January and July of 2013, police said they've encountered 75.6% more cases of counterfeiting as compared to the same time last year.
"It's gone to the business, the business has made their deposit, the bank catches it," said Sergeant Brent Mak with the Medford Police Department.
While retailers are sometimes the ones who catch the counterfeit money, most of the time the fake bills are caught by banks who are then stuck with the counterfeit cash. Now with the spike in counterfeiting, banks and credit unions are paying close attention.
"We're stuck with the money at that time if it comes into us and it's not caught at the time of the transaction," said Jeanne Pickens, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Rogue Federal Credit Union.
That's why staff are trained on what to look out for.
"The U.S. Treasury has put several different security features in place and a few of the ones that can be easily identified, is a security strip on $5 bills and higher," began Pickens.
She said she's aware of a new $100 bill that will soon be introduced with additional security features.
"It's a blue security strip that's coming out in the $100 bill in addition to a bill that's identifiable and colored when you tilt it. So there are additional features the U.S. Treasury is working on to prevent fraud moving forward as well," said Pickens.
But in the meantime, there are still ways people can tell a real bill from a fake one.
How to Spot a Fake Bill
"It actually says the denomination on the security strip and the new bills have the larger portraits of the president that is offset. So if you hold it up, you can see a second portrait," Pickens said as she held a bill up to the light.
"They really cannot get around the watermarks," agreed Sgt. Mak.
Medford Police said while some crooks are able to use high quality printers, the main way they're busted? The fake bills just don't feel like the real thing.
"9 times out of 10 the main way they catch it is feel," said Sgt. Mak.
Tracking Down Counterfeiting Crooks
Right now Medford Police said they're hard at work trying to track down the culprits responsible for the latest counterfeit schemes.
"We're working a couple cases right now where we have pretty decent video, trying to ID the people who are passing these bills."
According to police, whenever there's a report of counterfeit money, the Secret Service is notified.
"We have 24-hour access to them if we need them and we work very closely with them. [We] share a ton of info. Any time we are working a case, they are actively involved."
Counterfeiters on the Move
However there is a chance fraudsters have already filled the town with fake money, only to move on, bent on doing it again elsewhere.
"They don't want to stick around for too long. They'll come into town, they'll paper the town and then they move on. Organizations are definitely transient where they will move around," said Sgt. Mak.
He said the transient nature of some criminal groups could play a role in fluctuating counterfeiting crime rates.
Medford Police said high-end counterfeiters will bleach money, then re-print a bigger bill on top. They're referred to as washed bills. Recently, Medford Police said they've mainly run into the poorer quality counterfeits.
Other Crime Numbers Released by the Medford Police Department for January-July 2013
Crimes that are up:
- Robberies up 38.5%
- Burglaries up 15.7%
- Theft up 17.3 %
- Counterfeit up 75.6%
- Weapon Law Violations up 55.3%
Crimes that are down:
- Assault down 7.8%
- Arson down 8.8%
- Vandalism down 7.3%
- DUII down 17.6%
Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.
Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.
Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.
Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.