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What to Do When Suspecting a Counterfeit Note

I can remember using a counterfeit detector pen to make a small mark on all large bills ($50s and $100s) when accepting deposits that were being counted by hand. Doing this was a quick way to assure the credit union and our members that we are not passing along counterfeit bills. Sometimes it was necessary to check additional bills due to the operation of counterfeit rings. Once, counting a teller’s bundle of 10s (yes, 10s!) to sell to the vault from a school’s fundraiser deposit, I distinctly felt an odd note and put it aside. It looked genuine, and although a $10 would hardly ever arouse suspicion, I just knew. Nothing compares with knowing how real money looks and feels to also help in identifying a counterfeit note. If you handle currency everyday then you probably know too! Eventually, you will have to take it to your UV light and/or review it closely to authenticate it while comparing it to Federal Reserve Board’s U.S. Currency Education Program that lists important security features. But then what?

Here’s a good step by step of how to handle counterfeit currency to ensure frontline staff are ready:

If you receive a suspected counterfeit:

  1. Do not return it to the passer.
  2. Limit the handling of the note.
  3. If you do not believe the passing of the note was intentional, ask the member where they think they may have obtained the note and any other helpful information to aid law enforcement.
  4. If you believe the passing of the note was intentional, observe the passer’s description, as well as that of any companions, to aid law enforcement. If possible, obtain the license numbers on any vehicle used.
  5. Notify your supervisor, who will in turn contact the U.S. Secret Service field office or if necessary, the local police department.
  6. Write your initials and the date in the white border areas of the suspect note, along with the initials of the person surrendering the bill(s).
  7. Carefully place it in a protective covering, such as an envelope.
  8. Surrender the note to your supervisor for proper reporting. The designated person will complete the necessary USSS Counterfeit Note Report, and forward it to the local Department of the Treasury, U.S. Secret Service, to determine authenticity.
  9. The member should be given a manual receipt for the transaction. If the suspected bill is deemed authentic, the member will be credited for the amount.
  10. If the bill is deemed to be counterfeit, it will not be returned and the credit union is not required to credit the member.

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