By Michael Williams
A new scam has police and merchants on the lookout for counterfeiters who are purchasing their phony money on eBay. Recently, a restaurant in Asheville North Carolina accepted a piece of this fake money. Fortunately, the merchant examined the bogus $100 bill and notified police.
The fake $100 bill looks and feels just like an authentic $100 printed by the U.S. Treasury Dept. What distinguished the two bills are the words “For Motion picture use only” printed on the left side of Benjamin Franklin’s face.
With the holiday season approaching, many merchants find themselves hurried and less vigilant about examining currency that is used in their stores. This hurried atmosphere is what counterfeiters are banking on to pass the phony notes.
Goodlettsville police recently worked a case at Teriyaki Express in which the customer allegedly used a fake 100 dollar bill, a movie prop, to buy food. The clerk didn’t catch the obvious signs on the bill.
When the customer was questioned, he reportedly swore he didn’t realize it either. He could have been charged but ultimately paid what he owed.
The funny money is used as props in movies. Though the bills are clearly marked for motion picture use only, many less diligent merchants have been duped by the counterfeit cash. The money can be purchased by numerous sellers on eBay who sell the money by the bundles. The ads clearly state the money is to be used for advertisement and promotion and will not pass as real currency. The ads discourage attempting to use the money as real currency. Nonetheless, more than a few counterfeiters have attempted to pass off the money as legitimate. While selling movie props is not illegal, attempting to pass the money to merchants or any other deceitful manner is a felony and could land the user in the federal penitentiary on charges of counterfeiting.
“It is plainly a movie prop. Once passed with criminal intent, it is a felony both state and federally,” said Matt Preston with the Secret Service.
Preston says despite the obvious signs it is a movie prop, clerks miss it, which is what counterfeiters are counting on.
“What they are counting on is people not paying attention to what they are doing,” he explained.
Preston said in the past few weeks there have been a few cases of the money being passed nationwide but nothing major.
Preston said diligence is the key to spotting this phony money. Special pens will detect these bills are fake, but these days, he says, many counterfeiters are bleaching one dollar bills and printing the image of 20s, 50s and 100s on the washed bill so the pen doesn’t activate because it reacts to the paper which is genuinely a $1. Merchants are urged to examine any denomination thoroughly.
Merchants can learn more about the movie prop money by examining the ads posted on eBay. Simply enter the words “movie prop money” into the search and dozens of offers will appear.