Of four counterfeit $100 bills that turned up in Grand Island in the last few days, at least two of them are former $10 bills that were bleached and printed over.
The altered bills have a realistic feel and weight, said Grand Island Police Capt. Jim Duering.
The pens that businesses use to determine a bill’s legitimacy are ineffective in judging the bleached bills because the materials used to produce the bills are legitimate, Duering said.
The best way to tell if those bills are phony is to look at the watermark, he said. Bills with denominations of $10, $20, $50 and $100 contain what are known as portrait watermarks. They are smaller portraits of the same historical figure who’s depicted on the bill. The watermark is in the blank space to the right of the Department of the Treasury insignia.
In order to see the watermark, hold the bill up to any bright light. The sun shining through a window is usually enough, Duering said.
If your bill has a large portrait of Benjamin Franklin but the watermark depicts Andrew Jackson, you’re holding a fake $100 bill.
“And luckily for us, Andrew Jackson and Ben Franklin do not look anything alike,” Duering said.
While the watermark doesn’t have the detail of the main portrait, “it’s pretty distinct,” he said. You can pretty plainly make out the figure’s face, hair and chin.
There are other safety features, such as a security thread, raised printing and a color-shifting “bell in the inkwell” on the $100. But the key giveaway is the watermark.
One of the counterfeit $100s was passed at Taco John’s at 2210 N. Webb Road. That bill was in the money bag deposited at Five Points Bank. It’s believed the fake $100 was spent between Friday and Monday.
Five Points Bank also discovered a phony $100 bill in a deposit from Pumpers, 1904 N. Diers Ave.
Police are sure that the counterfeit bills at Taco John’s and Pumpers are former $10s.
The other two counterfeit $100s were passed at Pro Image at Conestoga Mall. They were found by US Bank. It wouldn’t surprise police if those bills also turn out to have been washed.
Duering is not sure what method counterfeiters use to bleach money.
“I’m pretty sure just running it through Cascade in the dishwasher probably won’t do it,” he said. “So I’m assuming they probably do use a bleach or something.”
Duering has a feeling a few more counterfeit $100s will turn up in this round.
He pointed out that the businesses victimized over the weekend were in the Highway 281 corridor. He believes there’s “a strong possibility that this was a traveling criminal enterprise.”
Police are contacting the Nebraska Information Analysis center to see if similar funny money has turned up in other cities.