Crime & Courts

Police: Spike in counterfeit cash can accompany garage sale season

It can be difficult to spot the differences between real and counterfeit cash. The top bill is authentic. The bottom is fake, confiscated during a sheriff’s investigation. (May 12, 2016)
It can be difficult to spot the differences between real and counterfeit cash. The top bill is authentic. The bottom is fake, confiscated during a sheriff’s investigation. (May 12, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

With garage sale season arriving, Wichita police on Wednesday issued an alert: Watch out for funny money.

“Take a look at the money” when someone offers cash to complete a transaction, Wichita police Sgt. Santiago Hungria said Wednesday.

Authorities are seeing counterfeit bills in denominations of $5, $10, $20 and $50, he said, and they’re higher-quality fakes.

“Don’t be in a rush to accept a $50 bill, especially for an item that’s only $5 or $10,” Hungria said.

Security measures on real money vary depending on the year it was minted, he said, so people should go to https://uscurrency.gov to learn which bills have which features. Money minted after 2006 has security threads embedded in the paper, which can be seen when the bill is held up to a light.

But one old method – pens that detect counterfeit money – is no longer reliable, Hungria said.

“The paper they’re using now will defeat that method,” he said.

The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office issued similar warnings last week. Deputies and detectives came across counterfeiting activity May 10 while investigating an indoor marijuana growing operation, a spokesman said.

Wichita police are seeing a typical number of counterfeiting cases so far this year, Hungria said, but there’s always a spike when summer arrives. Neighborhood associations often have community garage sales and many homeowners have finished spring cleaning and offer items they no longer want.

“Last year, we had problems with a lot of people at garage sales,” Hungria said. “They’re not finding out about it until they go to the bank” or they try to spend it themselves.

In those cases, “it’s hard to follow up on it,” he said.

If someone uses a counterfeit bill and is still on the scene, Hungria said, residents should call 911 and give a good description of the suspect.

“Do not get into a struggle or fight with a person over counterfeit money,” he said.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger

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