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Funny Money Not Humorous Matter

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FAYETTEVILLE — When counterfeit money is spent, store clerks are often left holding the bill.

Computer and printer technology is making so-called funny money much easier to produce.

But if you keep your eyes peeled, you can often spot the fakes.

Convenience store clerk Frances Sompler is on the lookout for counterfeit bills. She checks and double-checks to make sure a customer using funny money does not make a joke out of her.

"I turn it over and look for the line through it," she says.

"We talk about their day as I'm looking at their money. I look at money as I put it into the drawer, I look at money as I take it out of the drawer."

Secret Service Agent Mike Casper says many cashiers are not as careful as Sompler but they need to be.

Nearly $20 million in counterfeit money has been passed in the United States since October.

"The best thing is public education, to be aware," Casper says.

Casper notes that it does not take an expert to recognize a phony bill. In fact, sometimes it is plain simple.

A one-sided counterfeit $20 bill was actually accepted at a local fast food restaurant.

"The problem is that most of it's being passed at fast food joints, convenience marts where people are in a hurry to make customers happy, when actually they are being taken by the customer," Casper says.

Agents say employees must take the time. It can take only a few extra seconds. Special counterfeit-detector pens are a quick and easy way to check a bill. They are becoming more popular in stores where funny money has popped up.

Yellow means the money is real; counterfeit money turns black.

It is a $2 investment that Secret Service agents say will pay off.

A local manager at a discount store says they have been using the counterfeit-detecting pens for about two months and have already caught two fake bills.