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What was in my wallet? A counterfeit $10!

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Posted: Friday, May 31, 2013 9:26 am

Friday last week, Christi and I had our friends George and Cathy Phillips in from Upland in Southern California so we went downtown to show them around.

We giddily slurped up samples of oil at Olive Heaven and I chose a couple of bottles to try at home. I handed the lady at the register a 20 and a 10 and chatted as she passed the bills under a little desktop scanner.

“I hate to say this, but this ten may be counterfeit,” said store owner Jasmine Harris. “I’m sorry. I can’t accept it.”

She was professional, non-judgmental but decisive. A friend of hers had been badly burned by counterfeit hundreds and she is determined it isn’t going to happen to her.

We examined the bill, and the defects weren’t hard to spot — no watermark or security strip to the right of Alexander Hamilton’s portrait and blurry scrollwork was especially noticeable on the top border.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the note. Yes, I flashed for a moment on the thought of passing it on, but that temptation didn’t last long.

I took the tenuous ten-spot around the corner to F&M Bank. I started to tell Cecilia the story as I handed her the bill. She took it with her thumb and index finger and stopped me.

“Oh, yes, that’s counterfeit. The paper isn’t right and feel here — there are no little ridges on the lines in the jacket.” A supervisor took the bill and my contact info and I walked out, $10 poorer.

Where did I get the counterfeit $10? I haven’t a clue.

Since then, I’ve done a little research for this item.

I went back to Olive Heaven and spoke with clerk Puralinda Sanchez. She said she was given a counterfeit 10 at a gas station in Stockton recently. She exchanged it for a good one with only minor squabbling from the cashier.

I went online and found a great webpage with tips for spotting bad bills. Click on a denomination — $1 through $100 — for details on each bill.

This site — newmoney.gov — is sponsored by the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury and the Secret Service. It recommends that if you suspect a bill, turn it over to local police, and I finally phoned in a report today.

Merchants may want to know that the scanner Jasmine Harris used to spot my fake bill is made by Drimark and is called a Counterfeit Tritest — about $20 at Amazon.com. It also checks UV images on credit cards, driver’s licenses and passports.

“I’ve trained the staff to be very diplomatic,” said Harris. “Just apologize and give the the bill back. We are (just protecting) our business.”

I can’t argue with that.

And the lemon infused olive oil is inarguably great, as well.

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