WEST ORANGE, NJ – Local business owners should be on the lookout for counterfeit bills being circulated in the area.
On February 12, Montclair police reported two male suspects attempted to pass a fraudulent $100 bill at a food establishment on Orange Rd. The two suspects then fled in a green SUV when their plans were uncovered.
Both suspects were described as black male, 20-24yoa. One suspect was approximately 6'0 in height, 180lbs, wearing a red hooded sweater. He also had a goatee beard. The other, 5'8-5'10 in height, stocky build and wearing a black jacket with a hooded sweater zipped all the way up covering the majority of his face.
According to the Township of West Orange, recently, there were several incidents involving fake or counterfeit $100 bills. To that end, the township issued the following statement to all merchants and business owners:
“Recently, there have been several incidents involving fake or counterfeit $100 bills. These bills are reportedly $5 bills that were bleached/washed and reprinted as $100 bills. The group involved in the reported incidents range in age from late teens to early 20’s with thin builds. These incidents occurred in various locations throughout the township. Anyone who comes across a $100 bill that appears to be fake or suspicious in any way is asked to call the WEST ORANGE POLICE DEPARTMENT immediately at 973-325-4000 or 911 if necessary.”
Julie Orenstein, who owns Mark and Julie’s Homemade Ice Cream store in West Orange, with her husband Mark, is no stranger to receiving counterfeit bills. While she said she has not received any recently, on July 8, 1994, the very first day her store was open, she received her first counterfeit $100 bill.
“I said to myself, welcome to the neighborhood,” she said with a laugh. She added that she did not know the bill was a fake until she got to the bank and was told it was counterfeit. She then learned how to detect bad bills from the bank and via research.
She said, “One way I’ve been taught to detect if a bill is real is to run your fingernail on the president’s jacket. If it has ridges, unless is a really dilapidated one, there will be ridges on the lapel of the jacket. My experience has been ‘ridges real, flat fake,’ but I am not an expert.”
“Most bills have a barcode, that, if you hold them up to a light, you will see the barcode spells out the amount of tender in words, like ‘one,’ or ‘ten,” she said. “Some counterfeit bills may have this too, but it will be blurry—but most don’t. In addition, there is generally a watermark when you hold it up to light where you will see a very faint image of the president that is on the real bill. But I have seen some bills with a watermark of a number too.”
Now, Julie said she strives to not only tell her employees, but customers and people at other businesses like the supermarket who don’t check their money as it is handed to them, how to inspect money to spot a counterfeit bill.
“Over the years, I have gotten a few counterfeit $20s and a $5,” she said. “I now feel compelled to share with others what I have learned about spotting a fake bill.”
However, she said she has never received a counterfeit bill first-hand; rather, she has found them in the evenings, after the close of business.
“’Unfortunately,’ I have never ‘had the pleasure’ of actually spotting a counterfeit bill from a customer,” she said. “I usually find them at the end of night because of an employee not checking the money carefully enough.”
While the store has not received any bad bills recently, Julie said that when she was on a trip to California with her husband two January’s ago, her store did take in a fake $100 bill. However, she said her employee did use a counterfeit detection pen and it wasn’t until the manager went to make a deposit at the bank that Julie was informed it was counterfeit.
“I asked the bank to hold it (fake bill) until I got home, just for the experience of seeing it up close,” she said. “After assessing it, I knew I would not have taken it from a customer as it was badly bleached, had no ridges in the suits, and the watermark did not match the tendered amount.”
She added, “I was told that even though the paper was real, which is how it passed the detection of the pen, it was bleached and was previously a $5 bill. In addition, if my employee had held the bill up to the light and looked carefully at the watermark, she would have seen Lincoln, who is on the $5 bill, instead of Franklin, who is on the $100 bill, in the right corner area near the picture of the president on the front of the bill.”
“There are so many scams out there that people just need to pay attention,” Julie stated. “If the information I am sharing can alleviate just one problem, by having a person learn how to spot a counterfeit bill, then I will know I have made a difference, especially now—because I was told recently that a local store got five counterfeit $100 bills and that some local stores have stopped accepting $100 bills altogether.”
In addition, Julie cautions all residents to be careful of ‘unknowingly’ passing bad bills by receiving one and using it with no knowledge that it is fake.
“Business owners and employees are not the only people who should be worried about diligently checking their money—everyone should be checking the money in their wallets and as they get change, because getting a fake bill can happen to anyone, anywhere and anytime,” she said, adding, “even if you do it without knowing, you can still get in trouble.”
West Orange resident Adam Goldman, who owns two Dunkin Donuts franchises in town, said that his store, like all Dunkin franchises, has taken major strides to prevent receiving counterfeit bills.
“All Dunkin Donuts stores including my two in West Orange use an AccuBanker D63 Compact Counterfeit Detector with Ultraviolet and Watermark Detection on all bills we receive," said Goldman. "It is the best device, as it lets you check both the watermarks, and the UV stripes and the location the stripe should be for that specific bill."
"We have found bad bills with the detector before accepting them,” he said.
Goldman, whose stores have been using the device for the last three years said, “Prior to that (using he device) we relied on both the pens and a magnetic device, but both are fooled by bleached bills as the paper is real and the phony ink has magnetic properties to fool the pen and reader.”
Julie said she is thinking of investing in the decoder Goldman is using, as it will help her and her employees determine legitimate bills from bad ones immediately.
While there are many articles, documents and websites available with tips on spotting fake money, the Treasury Department offers downloadable items including a reference card, documents with details and pictures to educate people, a poster and much more. Photos of the card, booklet and poster are available in the photo gallery above.
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Regal Bank Daniel M. Tower said he encourages residents to check out the Treasury documents so employers and employees are prepared to examine bills and check for counterfeit ones. He also recommended that people review a Fraud Fighter/Fraud Prevention blog post called, 3 Simple Steps To Teach Employees How To Detect Counterfeit Money.
“The best way to try to avoid counterfeits is to obtain the Treasury Department booklet and train your employees,” said Tower. “The newer bills have an increased level of security features, which are supposed to be difficult to duplicate.”
Editor's Note: Natalie Heard Hackett Contributed to this article.