Businesses in and around the Kent area may be wise to give cash a closer look when it crosses their counters. Counterfeit money has recently made its way into a few shopkeepers hands.
Tim Nightengale, owner of Wild Earth Outfitters in downtown Kent, said he was surprised to learn that a $100 bill wasn't the real deal while making a bank deposit earlier this week.
At a passing glance, the fake bill looks authentic.
"It was pretty crisp and clean when we got it," he said. "It has the strip and it has the watermark, too."
Upon closer inspection, the bill feels smoother than real currency, its watermark looks cartoonish and after a few days, the bill begins to deteriorate. Its ink easily peels off with tape.
Nightengale now keeps the bogus money at his shop's register so employees can compare real money to it. While purchasing counterfeit detector pens after the incident, he said he learned his shop wasn't alone.
"When I stopped at OfficeMax, they said I was the third person to stop in that day," he said, adding that the clerk mentioned two Stow-area restaurants had received fake $50 bills. "My bank, FirstMerit, also said they've had fake $100s come through recently."
The U.S. Secret Service's website, www.secretservice.gov, has a "Know Your Money" section that outlines how to detect counterfeit bills.
According to the Secret Service, discrepancies between real and fake notes most commonly are located in the portrait, Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals, the note's border, serial numbers and the paper itself.
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"Compare a suspect note with a genuine note of the same denomination and series, paying attention to the quality of the printing and paper characteristics. Look for differences, not similarities," the website explains.
Nightengale said he's spread the word for neighboring shops to stay on the lookout.
Lori Wemhoff, director of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce, said counterfeit money may continue to make the rounds as spring and summer business picks up.
"If retailers, merchants and restaurants haven't invested in (counterfeit detector) markers, now is the time," she said. "We're getting into the season where there's going to be a lot more foot traffic and as business picks up, it's not just going to be the locals shopping, so keep an eye out."
Nightengale said his experience was unfortunate, but one to learn from.
"Mom and pop shops can be easy targets," he said. "We run on a tighter margin, it's a small store and it's harder on us when people take advantage of us. When you're a small business like us, a $100-hit matters."