Be on the lookout for funny money. That's the warning from police in the Poconos. It's the latest in a wave of counterfeiting cases across our region.
Summer weekends mean fresh delicious produce at the Monroe Farmers Market in Stroudsburg, but merchants are on high alert now -- looking for counterfeit cash.
"There's an influx of counterfeit hundred dollar bills," said farmers market owner Lalena Stirr. "They do look very real, and actually, the counterfeit pens you see them use at the supermarket, they're even passing as real through there."
Stroud Regional Police are warning area businesses about fake bills.
A surveillance camera captured one suspect at a Subway in the Stroud Mall. Police say he's passed six counterfeit bills since May.
"We, fortunately, have not seen it at this market, but we have taken precautions," said Stirr.
Stirr is urging vendors to only accept large bills from customers they know.
"Today I had two people offer me hundreds and I told them I couldn't take them," said Joseph O'Hara of O'Hara Orchards.
It's not just the Poconos, either.
In the last few months, police have seen a wave of counterfeit cases across our region. Businesses in downtown Bangor have been hit with several fake hundreds recently.
Counterfeits have also been spotted in Allentown and Emmaus in Lehigh County.
The use of counterfeit money locally is just a microcosm of a national problem -- a problem that is worsening as a growing number of people are able to get hold of counterfeiting technology.
According to federal officials, gone are the days of elaborate presses to produce counterfeit money. Today, fake bills are being produced on inkjet and laser printers, and can be designed on home computers.
According to the U.S. Secret Service, about 20 years ago, less than one percent of fake bills were produced on digital printers.
During the 2013 fiscal year, about 60 percent of the $88.7 million in counterfeit currency recovered in the U.S was produced on inkjet or laser printers.
"Today's counterfeiter is able to produce counterfeit currency with basic computer training and skills afforded by trial and error, and public education," the Secret Service noted in an online posting.
For this reason, the Secret Service anticipates the use of counterfeit money will continue to increase.
Just last year alone, U.S. law enforcement made more than 3,500 arrests of counterfeiters, according to a recent report by ABC.
While police urge businesses to accept smaller bills, the Secret Service also notes steps businesses can take to identify counterfeit cash.
The Secret Service website shows several distinct features on bills that businesses should be on the look out for when accepting cash
"Look at the money you receive," said the Secret Service. "Compare a suspect note with a genuine note of the same denomination and series, paying attention to the quality of printing and paper characteristics. Look for differences, not similarities."
It's a problem that could cost mom-and-pop businesses dearly.
"It's taking food out of the mouths of our families," said Stirr.
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