Local shop owners dealing with counterfeit bills

News G logoBy Alyssa Menard | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Local St. Augustine frozen yogurt shop Yobe recently posted a sign on their door warning customers that they would no longer be accepting $50 and $100 bills. The reason? The amount of counterfeit money that has been coming into the shop.

“We use the counterfeit pen on $20s and have found fakes of those,” said Kari Logan, a Yobe employee.

Counterfeit money has been an issue since currency was first created, and for stores, restaurants and law enforcement, it remains a problem today. The Federal Reserve continuously redesign the U.S. currency, and just releases a new $100 bill with new security measures to reduce counterfeiting. Unfortunately, new technology advancements have made counterfeiting easier and easier.

Chuck Mulligan from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said counterfeit money is a problem in St. Johns County, and not just because of the high percentage of tourists year round.

“I am not sure you can account for the tourism industry being any more or less problematic than a non-tourist town, who would also experience counterfeiting issues,” he said.

Counterfeiting money is no longer a crime for the wealthy and educated. Even for small purchases, people don’t think they will be caught.

“I feel as if customers think it is easier to get away with using higher bills at stores, such as a frozen yogurt shop, and believing we will gladly accept them,” said Logan.

In fact it is the opposite. Smaller stores, like a frozen yogurt shop, have a hard time making change for large bills and are more likely to be skeptical about taking them.

While the Secret Service only estimates 3/100s of 1 percent of all U.S. currency is counterfeit, the problem primarily lies in the circulation of it. The most problematic issue behind imitation money is that many people do not know how to identify it.

“The issue is who is passing the money and each set of circumstances is different,” said Mulligan.

Most people in the United States have encountered a counterfeit bill in their lifetime and passed it on without ever being aware of it.

At another local St. Augustine shop, Crucial Coffee, employee Tristi Ferchalk said the coffee shop does not use counterfeit pens on their bills, but due to the number of counterfeits the owner has seen, they also will no longer accept $100 bills.

The Secret Service is continually seeking new designs that could help decrease the amount of counterfeit bills once and for all. They claim 90 percent of counterfeits could be eliminated if people were to analyze the money they see and use and immediately identify counterfeits before they get passed on.

Stephen DiMare, owner of the downtown St. Augustine popsicle shop The Hyppo, said his stores do not see an abundance of counterfeit bills, but he can still see how it would be an issue in a town with heavy tourism.

“In a customer service setting, we don’t want to put ourselves in a position of taking people’s money and calling them criminals, especially if they are unaware,” he said.

He agrees that the primary problem lies in the passing along of it rather than the felony of creating it.

“Most people that are handing you a counterfeit bill probably received it from somebody else as change or payment and are unaware that it is counterfeit,” he said.

Those who work in the customer service industry benefit most from knowing the specifics of the dollar bills. For more information visit the http://www.secretservice.gov/KnowYourMoneyMay13.pdf

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