LAURINBURG — With Hurricane Florence set to bring heavy wind and rain to Scotland County, scams sparked by repair needs loom for residents. But ahead of that, a scam has already surfaced in the area.
“We’ve had several reports over the past month or so about counterfeit currency being passed around,” said Lt. Chris Young with the Laurinburg Police Department. “Most of those are $10 bills that have been changed into $100 bills.”
Young said the bills are being passed at local businesses — places like restaurants and convenience stores — some of which aren’t getting caught until they are deposited at the bank.
“We3’ve had two or three instances that I know of,” said Mike Vinson, senior vice president at First Bank in Laurinburg. “These bills are very hard to catch, but there are ways.”
Young explained that the bills are not produced as a Xerox copy.
“This is a washout method, where a $5 bill is changed to a $50 or a $10 is changed into a $100,” he said. “It takes a trained eye to catch these. It’s just very tough to tell … extremely hard.”
Vinson said bank tellers are trained to check incoming bills beyond the usual swipe of a special marker.
“The paper on these washed out bills is genuine, but the water mark should top someone off it it’s counterfeit,” he said. “There are certain other things a person who knows what to look for can detect.”
Young said anyone accepting a suspicious bill should check for the security strip, inspect the lining of the bill and feel the texture of the bill carefully. He added that using the special markers remains an important first step, but added that “nothing will catch (a counterfeit bill) 100 percent.”
Once a counterfeit bill is detected or suspected, bank employees or business owners should contact local law enforcement.
“At that point, the money is confiscated and usually inspected by local law enforcement before being turned over to the Federal Reserve and FBI for investigation,” Vinson said. “It becomes evidence and, unfortunately, the depositor loses out on that amount.
“It’s a warning to be careful” he added. “Everyone needs to be aware these are out there.”
Vinson said anyone can Google “counterfeit money” to see how the fake bills are being created, or go online at https://www.uscurrency.gov/denominations/100.
Young said residents should also be aware of a “movie currency,” theater currency” or “motion picture” scam going around the region, where dollar bills of all denominations that has been altered — usually with one of those titles emblazoned across the top.
“It’s easy to miss if you don’t look carefully — especially when someone is counting a stack of $10 bills or something,” he said.
Anyone who suspects they have been given a counterfeit bill should call the Laurinburg Police Department at 910-276-3211 or the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office at 910-276-2580.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3026 or [email protected]