Check your change, counterfeit currency on the rise in Stillwater area

Start looking at your money — that’s the message police have for businesses and customers in the Stillwater area after an uptick in attempted use of counterfeit cash.

Last month, Oak Park Heights police took reports of counterfeit cash being passed at four businesses.

“This is no longer an uncommon occurrence,” Oak Park Heights police said in a written statement. “We recovered over $7,000 of counterfeit money from just one of the suspects.”

While some of the money is obviously fake, some is convincing and goes undetected.

One truck driver received counterfeit bills as change for a purchase he made in Oak Park Heights and was stopped at a toll booth in another state for trying to use the currency. Fortunately for the truck driver, Oak Park Heights police were able to confirm his story about where the counterfeits came from.

“If you’re using cash, take a close look at it before you leave the store,” Oak Park Heights Police Chief Brian DeRosier said. Otherwise, “you’re at the mercy of the person in line in front of you.”

According to DeRosier, it’s not only large bills that are counterfeited — sometimes it’s $5 and $10 bills too.

In recent months, Stillwater has seen a surge in attempts to pass counterfeit bills.

“There’s definitely been an increase,” Sgt. Jeff Stender said.

Most of the cases he’s seen recently have involved obviously fake bills.

“It’s not your typical counterfeit,” he said. “It’s fake money that looks like U.S. money, but if you look at it, it says things like ‘for training purposes only’ or ‘motion picture use only.’”

Nevertheless, some businesses have accepted the bills.

“There’s been several attempts and there’s been several successes,” Stender said.

The bills began showing up in Stillwater police reports last summer, Stender said, but they’ve become more common recently.

Stender isn’t aware of any specific group behind the recent trend, and the bills are easily obtainable.

“It’s a fad in criminal activity at this point,” he said.

The good news is movie prop money isn’t hard for businesses to recognize if they’re looking.

“They need to be checking their currency,” Stender said. “If you get a hundred dollar bill, it’s not hard to confirm whether it’s legitimate or not just by looking at the security features on the bill itself.”

The current version of the $100 bill has security features including a 3-D security ribbon, color-shifting ink, a watermark, raised printing and micro-printing. The most recent $20 bills include color-shifting ink, a watermark, a security thread, raised printing and micro-printing.

For more information on distinguishing genuine currency from fake, go to uscurrency.gov.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]