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Some ‘funny money’ in circulation

FARMINGTON — Your grandpa warned you against taking any wooden nickels, now the police are issuing the same caution against receiving or passing fake $50 bills.

Twice in the past few days, the Farmington Police Department has been called to investigate the passing of counterfeit $50 bills. Bills of the same denomination with matching serial numbers and dates have also been fraudulently used to buy fuel and fast food at a Desloge gas station and restaurant.

Lt. Detective Jeff Crites, Farmington Police, said that the federal agency in charge of counterfeiting investigations has been notified and has registered information on the bogus $50 bills so any matches of the bills passing through banks will be red flagged in the government database.

The fake $50 bills have a 1996 print date and are on paper which makes it obvious they are illegal reproductions. Authentic 1996 issued $50 bills have a watermark matching the portrait on the bill, the newer-style red and blue ink, and a security thread running the width of the bill which contains alternating symbols of the $50 denomination and an American flag. The watermarks and security thread are visible by holding the bill up to a bright light.

Possession or knowingly passing fake currency can carry penalties of stealing or forgery. Crites said the Farmington police have already spoken with a suspect, and Desloge police are moving forward with their investigation as well. Still, it’s unclear how many of the fake bills are in circulation locally.

As for what consumers and store clerks can do to protect themselves from receiving or passing the counterfeit bills, Crites says the first thing is to automatically be wary of receiving any $50 bills and take time to check them thoroughly. Store or restaurant clerks or attendants should take all precautions to implement the usual techniques and tools to reveal whether a bill is genuine or not. As for consumers, he suggest they not accept $50 bills as change. If receiving a $50 bill from a bank, store or restaurant as change, simply ask for two twenties and a ten, or other denominations to replace the potentially fake bill.

Anyone with concerns about a $50 bill or information about the counterfeit notes can call the Farmington Police or the department in charge of the community where the bill was passed. Crites also said the federal agents indicated they would be opening an investigation into the origin of the fake cash.

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