February 13, 2003

Counterfeit $20 Bill Discovered At Memphis Bank

Credit cards take time and writing a check usually requires an I.D. check so most merchants would simply prefer to receive cash. But with the increasing amount of improvements in the printing and graphic technologies, even good old cash can pose a problem.

Just ask a local bank, which discovered a counterfeit $20 bill on February 6 in Memphis.

While the Scotland County Sheriff's Department is investigating the case, the initial indications are this was an isolated matter.

"We have traced the bill back through two transactions prior to its arrival at the bank and have no reason to believe that any of the parties involved had anything to do with creating the counterfeit bill," stated investigating officer Bill Holland. "Still we encourage local businesses to pay a little closer attention to the cash coming into their businesses and to report any suspicious currency."

Investigators believed the bill likely passed through several transactions before coming into Scotland County via a legitimate cash transaction.

Counterfeiting is one of the oldest crimes in history. During the American Revolution, the British counterfeited U.S. currency in such large amounts that the Continental currency soon became worthless. "Not worth a Continental" became a popular expression that is still heard today.

As much as 50 percent of the paper money circulating during the Civil War was likely counterfeit. As many as 1,600 banks in the individual states generated their own paper money with individual designs and seals which made it practically impossible to separate the real money from the fake cash as more than 7,000 varieties of real bills were available.

To resolve the problem of counterfeit money and to restore value to paper money the U.S. government established a national currency was in 1862. Unfortunately that did little to solve the problem as counterfeiters soon went to work producing fakes of the national cash denominations. The rash of funny money as it's called today, finally forced officials to take law enforcement steps.

On July 5, 1865, the United States Secret Service was established to suppress the wide-spread counterfeiting of the nation's currency.

The new law enforcement branch helped to curb the problem of fake money but the crime still represents a potential danger to the Nation's economy.

Today, counterfeiting once again is on the rise. One reason for this is the ease and speed with which large quantities of counterfeit currency can be produced using modern photographic and printing equipment.

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