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A Counterfeit Money Scam To Look Out For & How To Avoid It

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Counterfeit Money Scam

A Counterfeit Money Scam To Look Out For & How To Avoid It

My buddy finally got caught up in a counterfeit money scam after reselling for a few years.  It happened over the weekend and he is out $100 because of it.  He is happy it wasn’t more but was still surprised.  He thought he safeguarded himself pretty well from this stuff but he still got hit by it.  I will share his story and then the only way I think you can avoid scams like this.

RELATED: Scammers Be Scamming – My Experience With A PayPal Chargeback

The Counterfeit Money Scam Backstory

My friend had a Nintendo Switch bundle he was reselling locally.  He didn’t mark it up much since they are not as hot of an item after the holiday season.  But the total money collected was $360.

After making the sale he went to the bank to make a deposit and they said it was counterfeit.  He was surprised since he had a money marker and the bill passed the test.  The $100 bill also had the blue marking on it so he thought it was good.

After being told it was fake he called the cops and waited for them to arrive. When they showed up he explained the situation and gave them the person’s license plate that he had sold it to (he had luckily written it down). The other $260 in bills were fine.  That could mean that the person making the purchase didn’t know it was fake either and got it from somewhere else etc.

The cops informed him that the money was a $1 bill that someone had washed and then reprinted on.  That is why it passed the money marker test…because it was real US Treasury paper.

Counterfeit Money Scam

How To Avoid This Counterfeit Money Scam

This is a tough nut to crack.  If your money marker can fail you then how do you avoid it?  I would suggest selling larger items at a bank.  That way you can have a teller check the money before handing over the item.  They can then inform you if any of the bills are fake etc. and just posting that in your listing should help detract scammers from chasing your listing.

You may want to check with your local bank first to make sure this is okay or meet outside and then walk in together to do the process.  Those are details you can work out as you fine tune your process.  This is the only way I can think to avoid this scam though.

Final Thoughts

Luckily for my buddy he is only out $100 and the true loss from the purchase price is even lower than that.  Had this been a $1000 PlayStation sale a few months ago it would have felt much worse.

Having said that he did take a lot of precautions trying to avoid this counterfeit money scam.  He looked for the blue bar and checked the paper with a money marker.  Those steps where not enough to avoid being dinged. He is considering selling at banks going forward so they can check the bills for him.

Has anyone else been handed counterfeit bills while reselling?  Share your story in the comments.

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. So this is something I learned very early in my Target days (2005).

    I look at all my bills. Washed bills are real bills, so yes, they pass the marker test.. so those markers are useless. The newer bills have more colorful strips, so newer machines can also tell you the location where the strips are supposed to be. I think the old ones used to be in the same location. Washed bills will tend to be $1-5 (for obvious reasons) for $20s or $100s. $50 bills are fairly uncommon that it’s ought to be checked.

    The strip will say the numbers and the faces (there’s two: larger and one visible in the light) will match.

  2. FWIW I’ve dealt with cash for over 30 years in my business and I can give you two easy things to check which will detect 99.9% of counterfeit currency, (as mentioned forget the pens they’re worthless).
    #1 On all newer bills $10 and up the denomination in the lower right corner is printed in color changing ink, (just rotate the bill under good light and you can see if the color changes).
    #2 Run your fingernail over the Tunic around the dead president, (it should be printed with clearly noticeable raised ink).

  3. Conduct your activities in the lobby of your local police department. As long as you are not doing something illegal, it is legal. Then if you decide to do any transaction, do what Mark said — do that at the bank. Just the mere invitation to either location will root out most bad actors. I remember I had cold feet on selling a car and did just that. Total game charger.

  4. The Capital One Bank branch gave me a counterfeit $100 bill when I withdrew money to deposit in a bank next door. The other bank showed me the form that is to be filed, except if you know where you received the money, then you should bring it back there (Or something like that, it was a few years ago, even though I have a copy of it somewhere). I returned to the other bank maybe 5 minutes later with the bill, now stamped “COUNTERFEIT”. When I went back to the teller window, I was accused of attempted fraud, specifically I was told ‘We didn’t give that to you’.

    • That’s The most amazing story I’ve ever heard about Counterfeit currency and banks on two counts.
      #1 Amazing that a bank would give out a counterfeit bill!!
      #2 Even MORE amazing is that the second bank would give you the bill BACK after determining it to be counterfeit.

      I own a primarily cash business and I deposit between $700K – $900K per year in cash and my understanding, (from multiple banks), is that banks are REQUIRED by Federal law to seize and take out of circulation ANY counterfeit currency presented by anyone.

      • They stamped it “COUNTERFEIT” on both sides. They they showed me the official U.S. Treasury Dept. (It might have been a Secret Service form, but they are part of the Treasury Department anyway) form we were going to fill out. The form stated right on it that the form is to be completed unless you know where you got the bill, in which case you are supposed to bring it back there, which is why I did that. When Capital One was uncooperative, including the manager, who actually told me they should have kept it (and I remember telling him the form stated to return it to wince it came if I knew where I got it), I went back to the second bank and filled out the form. I know I got a xerox of it and the bill. I’ll take a quick look, and update the language if it shows up. It was a few years ago, so that language might have been removed since.

  5. All US currency larger than $2 have a plastic security strip that runs from top to bottom. So no strip and larger than $2 is counterfeit.

  6. I had some teenage kids try to give me $1200 counterfeit bills. I should have known better, it was late (Dave was with me so I didn’t go alone) and we met in a public place. They were backed in a spot with all lights off. Seemed super sketchy and the kid was hiding the money, tried to grab the PS5 and I told him I had to count the money first. I immediately could tell it was fake (I’m actually not sure how as it was dark out but it looked off). Ran my pen over it and it turned black right away. Told the kids to get tf out and they floored out of there so fast. I never grabbed their license plate and the fb profile blocked me. So I guess I’ll never know, but I’m sure they tried it to others.

  7. I’ve used Zelle for some recent in-person transactions and it has worked well. The transfer happens within seconds and I can login to my bank account and verify that the money is there before I turn over the goods. I don’t believe that a Zelle transfer can be cancelled unless the recipient hasn’t yet enrolled in Zelle.

    If anyone knows of a problem with using Zelle in this way, I’d love to hear it!

      • People can dispute PayPal transactions and can easily win even without proof. It comes with some risks for sure.

        • My only experience is with Paypal transactions for Ebay transactions being ‘disputed’. The transaction doesn’t even have to be disputed for someone to ‘win’. Someone can make purchases on Ebay from multiple sellers. Then, after receiving notification that the items have been shipped with tracking, have his bank reverse all the transactions, with the money being sucked out of all the sellers Paypal accounts. Then, Paypal sides with the purchaser, despite the purchaser not having contacted Paypal about anything, not making any claims about anything, not disputing anything and not responding in any way whatsoever to the sellers claims made with Paypal after the money disapperared from their Paypal accounts (I don’t remember if Paypal calls that a ‘dispute’ also), and with the sellers providing tracking number proof the items were accepted by a person at the confirmed address.

  8. You are lucky the cop did not put his knee on your neck like the Ferguson guy. This is the job of secret service to check andtrack. I was scam for $100 bill too and have no idea who gave it to me since I mixed them all up when putting them in order for the bank. The bank just get me to sign the counterfeit and attach it to a paper with my name and their name.

  9. This is why most countries use different sizes for different bills, usually large as the denomination increases. It’s also why we need to continue moving towards a cashless society. Venmo & Zelle transfers are pretty much instant – just saying…

    • Venmo etc. can be disputed after the fact though so there is risk there as well. Different size bills is something we should have done a long time ago imo.

  10. I think in addition to the pen you need to check the watermark against the light. For real $100 bills it would obviously show Benjamin Franklin watermark. However for $1 bills bleached to $100 bills, there wouldn’t be a Benjamin Franklin watermark.

  11. I’ve had my hands on a washed bill and it is pretty amazing that it can be done. They do look realistic but I recall that the washing changes the feel of the paper considerably.

  12. Wow, that’s a crazy story. Had some follow-up questions that I was curious about:

    1. How was the bank teller able to tell that it was counterfeit?

    2. Once your buddy was told that it was counterfeit was he able to notice the issue(s) with the bill upon closer inspection?

    3. What was the give-a-shit-index of the cops? Did it seem like they were going to go after the guy that passed the counterfeit?

    • I guess the pen they used caught it and the two different brand of pens he used didn’t. They wouldn’t tell him the brand of pen they use.

      The officer noticed the old $1 slightly shining through so he said he will look at bills more closely going forward.

      They said they would run a background check since he had the license plate and see if there was a history of counterfeit complaints and they forwarded the bill onto the secret service. My buddy could also press charges. So I would say medium level of give a shit lol


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