Sharp-eyed clerks spot counterfeit bills

A sharp eye resulted in the arrest of an Oakland, Calif., man and a Eugene woman allegedly trying to pass off counterfeit $100 bills as the real thing earlier this week.

Derrick Knockum, 48, and 42-year-old Novavilla Maijala, were each arrested on two counts of first-degree forgery and booked in the Jackson County Jail. They are no longer listed in the jail.

They used the counterfeit bills in at least three area businesses, and Medford police believe there could be more. The bills they used had watermarks on them, strengthening the image of legitimacy further. The same serial number on every bill revealed them to be counterfeits.

"They were decent," said Detective Sgt. Brent Mak. "You can actually see where they tried to fake the watermark."

Their activity came to an end about 2:30 p.m. Monday at Big Lots when they tried to make another purchase. Employees spotted the bill as a fake and contacted police. Knockum and Maijala were arrested in the business parking lot.

Fake cash can sometimes be hard to spot because of the attention to detail. Mak said forgers will sometimes bleach legitimate $5 bills and reprint $100 markings in their place.The only way to really tell is to make sure the watermark is Benjamin Franklin and not Abraham Lincoln.

But even with hard-to-spot differences, the U.S. Secret Service says there are tell-tale signs people can use to prevent getting fooled.

According to the agency's "Know Your Money" webpage, genuine portraits on bills stand out distinctly from the background, while counterfeit portraits are typically flatter, with details merging into the background. The seals of the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury have sharp, distinct points, while seals on counterfeit bills can appear uneven or blunt.

The smaller details on legitimate bills such as lines are distinct and unbroken, while lines on counterfeit bills can look more blurred. Serial numbers on real currency are evenly spaced and printed in the same ink color as the U.S. Treasury seal. Counterfeit bill serial numbers may not be evenly spaced and printed in a different color from the Treasury seal. Finally, genuine bills have tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout the paper it is made with. It's a characteristic counterfeiters sometimes try to imitate by printing blue and red lines on the paper.


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