July 25, 2007 Edition

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Funny money no laughing matter

Angie Skimahorn
Online Editor

I've never really paid much attention to counterfeit money reports. I don't normally carry cash, and when I do have cash it comes from the bank's ATM machine. The bank checks their money, so it can't be counterfeit, right?

My husband got some money out of the ATM machine Sunday morning. Later in the day, he handed me $30, a 20 and 10, so I could make a quick trip to the grocery store.

After paying with the money that came from the bank's ATM machine, I got funny looks from the cashier after she marked my bill with the pen and she took off to the office. The lady in the office called more people in and they all stared and whispered about me. Finally, the cashier came back and informed me that my $20 bill was not good. It was counterfeit.

I called my husband and the store called the police to come in and check things out. I wrote a check for my groceries, although the lady in the office didn't seem to like that very much, either.

When I went with the bag boy to put my groceries in the car, I thought the two left in the office, who were watching my every move, were going to have a stroke because I walked out of the store.

I had to wait about five minutes for the police to arrive. When the officer got there, he took a statement from the lady in the office and then came to talk to me. I had to go to the police station to do some paperwork and make a formal statement.

My husband arrived about the time I was leaving to go to the police station. He went with me and filled out a form saying where the money came from and that he had been the one to give it to me. The officer took the money to send off where it will be checked to make sure it is really counterfeit.

While the officer was very nice and assured me that he didn't think I was producing counterfeit money, those at the store were another story. I know there is a procedure they have to follow, but I don't believe I was treated fairly.

I was just as innocent in this as the store was. The cashier and boy who carried out my bags were nice, but the people in the office acted as if I had been featured on America's Most Wanted. I won't be shopping there again.

I talked to the bank Monday morning about what had happened. How did a fake $20 bill end up in their ATM machine?

What I learned is that all the money in the ATM machine comes from the Federal Reserve. I was asked how old the $20 bill was. While I didn't look at the date, I knew that it was an older bill. It wasn't the new design and was really worn. According to the bank, the pens used to mark bills to see if they are real don't work on "older" money. They will, more than likely, always show the money is counterfeit ~ whether it is or not.

The store also checked for the security thread that is supposed to be in all bills except ones. I learned from searching the web that the US Treasury didn't start this precaution until 1990.

With this information in mind, I believe I should have been treated better as a person and long-time customer, but I understand that the police needed to be notified and my bill checked for authenticity.

So, after this horrible experience, my funny money may turn out to be not so funny after all.

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