Economy

Even fake money isn't what it used to be

The Secret Service agent in Kansas City peered hard at a counterfeit $100 bill, ran a finger over it and grimaced in disgust.

It was bad, ugly work.

"Too slick, too," said Charles Green, special agent in charge.

More counterfeiters are using today's ink-jet printers, computers and copiers to make money that's just good enough to pass, he said, even though their product is awful.

In the past, he said, the best American counterfeiters were skilled printers who used heavy offset presses to turn out decent 20s, 50s and 100s. Now that kind of work is rare and almost all comes from abroad.

Among American thieves, the 22-year veteran said sadly, "it's a lost art."

But as art fades, greed goes on. Ink-jet counterfeiting is thriving.

Part of the problem, Green said, is that the government has changed the money so much to foil counterfeiting. With all the new bills out there, citizens and even many police officers don't know what they're supposed to look like.

Moreover, many people see paper money less because they use credit or debit cards.

The result: Ink-jet counterfeiting accounted for 60 percent of $103 million in fake money removed from circulation from October 2007 to August 2008, the Secret Service reports. In 1995, the figure was less than 1 percent.

To read the complete column, visit The Kansas City Star.

  Comments