It's not often that the U.S. Secret Service finds itself in the rural town of Pembroke, N.C.
On Thursday June 20, Sr. Agent Mike Casper spoke to about 30 bankers and business people crammed into the dining room at Sheff's Seafood Restaurant. Casper came to town with a message, "It doesn't pay to be a counterfeiter."
"Even if you print just one one-dollar bill, you're going to jail for one year," he said.
Casper said in this region, the most common type of counterfeit bills are made by inkjet printers. This type is recognizable because printers squirt yellow and blue ink dots on top of each other to make green appear on the paper.
"Dots are what I see every day," he said.
According to Agent Casper, $30 million of counterfeit money has been passed through the U. S. in the first five months of this year. $6.8 million was seized before it went into circulation.
Abroad, the market for counterfeit U.S. bills is enormous. $81 million was seized last year, and the bulk of it was printed in Columbia.
"Regretfully, counterfeit (money) and drugs go hand in hand," said Casper.
Casper said $20 bills are the most commonly copied in numbers, although there are enough fake $100 bills to out-value the twenties.
Less than 0.02 percent of counterfeit money is in circulation in the U. S., making it unlikely that one would get passed to an ordinary citizen. In foreign black markets like Russia, it is possible to find that 70 percent of U.S. bills being counterfeit.
UNCP police officers Capt. Larry McNeill and Sgt. McDuffie Cummings Jr. were also in attendance at the presentation, which was hosted by First Bank of Pembroke.
Capt. McNeill said university cafeteria workers turned over two counterfeit $20 bills last fall. Whoever passed the bills that day was not caught.
If you suspect you are carrying suspicious money, he said, you should turn it over to local law enforcement immediately.
"The important thing for people to remember is that once you walk out into the parking lot with counterfeit (money), you're stuck with it," McNeill said.
The U.S. treasury hopes that new security features added in 1996 will deter counterfeiters and help the public identify imitation $20, $50 and $100 bills.
Color-shifting ink is being used in the numerals on the lower-right hand corners, so when cashiers place money in the till, they can see if the tilting the bill makes the green number turn black.
An enlarged, off-center presidential portrait reduces wear and tear while added detail is harder to replicate. Fine-line printing behind the portrait and back illustration make scanning the bills difficult without obvious wavy lines appearing.
A watermark, security thread, micro-printing and red and blue fibers are also located throughout the bills. In 2000, new $5 and $10 bills were released to complete the new series.
"There was something rotten in WalMart when this bill was passed," said Casper as he held up a laminated $100 bill. He passed it around the room and commented on the simulated watermark and fake polymer strip.
"Is it a huge problem? Not really," he said. "But is takes selling a lot of Snickers bars to make up the losses."