“We had seven incidents in the last 30 days,” Sgt. Steve Beukelman said June 6. “If you feel you have a counterfeit bill, call the police or come down here (to the police station) and we’ll investigate it.”
Most of the counterfeit bills found in Tracy have been in $10 and $20 denominations and have been used at gas stations, mini marts and fast-food restaurants.
According to the Tracy police dispatch records, counterfeit money was used at Taco Bell at 2880 Grant Line Road, Save Mart Supermarkets at 875 Tracy Blvd., and the Chevron station at 1960 11th St. during the week of May 22 to 28.
Beukelman said that although seven incidents were reported, the number of counterfeit bills circulated in Tracy could be higher. He said some business owners might not report finding a counterfeit and write it off as a loss.
Some people don’t check smaller-denomination bills to see if they are fake, the sergeant said, unless there’s an obvious problem — for example, if a bill feels odd.
A business person can use color-changing pens and other tools to determine if cash is real.
Beukelman said he was not aware of any counterfeit bills circulating that were sophisticated enough that people could not tell they were fake.
“It’s really pretty difficult to do it (counterfeit),” he said.
According to the U.S. Secret Service, there are five areas of a bill that are hard to duplicate: the portrait, the Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals, the border, serial numbers and the material the bill is made from, a mix of cotton, linen and silk.
• The portrait on a real bill appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background, while a counterfeit is usually lifeless and flat, and often too dark or mottled.
• Real seals are always clear and have sawtooth points that are distinct and sharp, while counterfeits may have uneven, blunt or broken sawtooth points.
• The border of a real bill has fine lines that are clear and unbroken, while a counterfeit often has blurred and indistinct margins and scrollwork.
• Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced, using the same ink color as the seal. Counterfeits often appear in a different color or shade.
• Tiny red and blue fibers are embedded throughout legitimate banknotes. Often, counterfeiters try to simulate the fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on the bill, but closer inspection shows that they are not embedded.
“It’s not a completely uncommon crime,” Beukelman said. “Occasionally, we get upticks in things like this.”
Each counterfeit bill is investigated internally by the Tracy Police Department and sent to the U.S. Secret Service for further testing.
For information, call Tracy Police Department at 831-6560.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at email@example.com or 830-4225.