Ogdensburg police are seeing more reports of city retailers and banks receiving counterfeit money that they believe originates both locally and from outside the north country.
City police Lieutenant Andrew D. Kennedy said the recent increase is not dramatic, but the department is on course to see more reports of fake money being passed this year than last.
The department last year received 28 reports of counterfeit notes from retailers and banks, and has received 22 reports so far this year. The latest was a week ago when the citys Wal-Mart reported receiving a suspicious bill.
I think its safe to say weve seen an increase, he said. We probably see a couple of reports a month.
When a counterfeit bill is reported, Lt. Kennedy said, police recover the bill, take a statement from the person who reported it and forward the information and bill to the U.S. Secret Service, which oversees such investigations.
If there is a suspect, they follow up on the investigation and try to make an arrest, Lt. Kennedy said.
Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge Timothy M. Kirk, Syracuse, said Northern New York as a whole is not seeing more reports of counterfeit money being passed, but fake money is changing hands.
More often than not, he said, counterfeits are easy to spot. He said because the bills are often printed on paper that is not the same quality as legitimate money, the notes are easily damaged and do not remain in circulation for long. Even if a retailer doesnt spot a fake, a bank will.
They really have to do a good job, and often times they dont, Mr. Kirk said. There are higher-quality bills coming from outside the country that will make their way up to Ogdensburg from China or Colombia or North Korea, and of course you have neer-do-wells in Ogdensburg and St. Lawrence County that are printing money in their bedroom or home office or dorm room or what have you. It might take a while, but we usually get onto them.
The quality of printing on home computers has improved rapidly over the last several years, but convincing counterfeits are still difficult and costly to print, he said.
Fake notes that at first glance appear genuine are out there, however, so people should inspect their bills to make sure they feel and appear real, Mr. Kirk said. He said one telltale sign of counterfeit is a waxy appearance.
All you have to do is compare it to one you know is genuine, he said. We try to encourage people to look at their money immediately after getting it from the bank. Many credit unions redisburse their cash, so you have to be on guard. Not everybody is a trained Secret Service agent who can detect counterfeit. And with sales on social media sites or Craigslist, theres always a chance that person could be defrauding you.
Counterfeits most often are in large denominations, he said.
The penalty is the same for a $5 bill or a $100 bill, so a criminal might as well print a $100 bill, Mr. Kirk said.
Federal law calls for prison terms of up to 20 years for those who print counterfeit money and up to 20 years for those who knowingly distribute it.
He said anyone who suspects they have received a counterfeit bill should notify police and the Secret Service with a description of the person who passed it and any other information that could help identify the suspect.
The last person who possesses the bill is responsible for telling where they got it, Mr. Kirk said. If they cant do that, not only are they out the money they lost, but they could also, in the worst case scenario, face prosecution.