MARCO ISLAND — People call it funny money, but it's not so funny if you're among the Marco businesses out about $240 due to fake $20's circulating in the area.
A Marco Island banker, as well as the police, want the public to watch out for fake $20 bills after two more suspected counterfeits were added to the list of 10 already reported on the Island within the last month.
IberiaBank Vice President Keith Dameron announced two counterfeit $20 bills were suspected at the Marco branch on Elkcam Circle today. He said the two fakes came after about 10 other counterfeit $20 bills were received by the bank in the past several weeks.
“That’s a lot. We’ve never seen this many,” Dameron said.
So far the counterfeits have a few things in common. The bank reported that all the bills came from business owners; the bill surface is more dull than the authentic $20 bill; the color of the bills were more tan than green and the bills did not have the metal strip of a real $20 bill.
“There are more fake bills out there. These are bills that could end up in your wallet,” Dameron said.
The bills were sent to the U.S. Secret Service as required, he added.
Communication between the local authorities and the Secret Service may not always be ideal for trying to catch the counterfeiter, officials report.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” said Marco Island Police Chief Thom Carr following Dameron’s announcement Monday afternoon.
Generally, the local law enforcement agencies send information to the Secret Service, but it may not always work the other way around, Carr said.
The only way to nab the thief or thieves is for people to be very careful when accepting cash, Carr said.
“The problem is, people aren’t always paying attention. They’re exchanging money too fast,” he said. “If you handle money a lot, you should be able to tell the difference between the bills.”
Dameron and Carr both described Marco as an easy and ideal target.
“We’re a transient place. We have tourists from all around the world and in-season, places are busy. They’re trying to hurry and get your change as quickly as possible,” Carr said.
Further, Dameron says, the “well-to-do Island area attracts scammers, who know there is a lot of money going around.”
Bills can be checked with counterfeit-checking special pens available at office supply stores and other locations. If the bill is good, it will leave a yellow mark that will eventually fade away. If the bill is bad, it will leave a blackish-brown mark that remains on the bill.
The pens work by dying the wood particles in fake bills differently than the cotton and linen in real bills.
Monday, the suspect bills were detected by the bank’s cash counting machine, which labeled the bill suspect and then stopped counting the business depositor’s stack of cash.
Police have not received any reports from other banks, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t be coming soon, Carr said.
The suspect bills are mailed to the Secret Service, verified as authentic or counterfeit and then either sent back to the bank if they're real or kept by the Secret Service if they're fake. The process doesn't always allow for immediate reporting between agencies, officials report.