Check that twenty dollar bill before you take it
Myrtle Beach police say counterfeit cash is showing up on the Grand Strand again, but something is different this time. It's one particular denomination that police are seeing more of these days.
The manager of the East End Cigar Company in Myrtle Beach has always checked fifty and one-hundred dollar bills to make sure they're real.
From now on, he'll check twenties, too, though that will be more time-consuming.
"But you gotta do what you gotta do. Can't afford this every day," said John, who asked us not to use his last name.
He says a woman came into the store Monday and bought a $3 lighter with a twenty dollar bill that he realized was fake only after she was gone.
Before she left, the woman mentioned something to John about going to get coffee at the Dunkin Donuts, so he called the donut shop just a block away to warn them about her, but it was too late.
Police say the woman got away after dropping a fake twenty dollar bill at that store, too, with the same serial number as the other bogus bill.
Police say they're seeing a lot of fake twenties these days.
Here's why: anyone with a handful of hundred-dollar bills looks suspicious, and printing fake ones and fives isn't worth the trouble.
"So the twenty dollar bill is common, yet if you have a whole wad of them in your pocket, it's not going to raise too many red flags," said Myrtle Beach Sgt. John Bertang.
Bertang said the Grand Strand, with its millions of tourists and a transient population, has more of a problem with counterfeit money than most areas.
Bertang said counterfeit cash may look real, but the texture and feel of it often gives it away.
Of course, real cash has various security features, like the watermark and threads embedded in the paper, but Bertang said the easiest way to detect bogus bills is still by using those pens with ink that writes black on fakes and yellow on real cash.
And keep in mind, he said, the crooks know just when to strike - when store clerks are busy.
"And they kind of distract them pretty much while they're passing that counterfeit bill, so it goes undetected and they can leave."
That's what happened at the cigar store. John, the manager, was busy with customers and got distracted. Today, he feels pretty bad about it.
"It's my own stupidity, but it won't happen again."
The Federal Reserve says at any given time, up to$80 million in counterfeit bills are circling the globe.