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ATMs dispense laughable phony cash

By Claes Bell ·
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

Next time you visit the ATM, you might want to take a closer look at the cash it dispenses. Last week, ATMs in New York owned by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and serviced by NCR were loaded with $110,000 in fake bills, some of which were dispensed to customers.

The funny part: The counterfeit bills were really, really bad. Printed on regular paper stock with images only on one side, they may have been created by a rogue employee specifically to fool ATMs.

While it wasn't true in this case, counterfeit cash can often be hard to spot. (photo by Eric Skiff)

While it wasn't true in this case, counterfeit cash can often be hard to spot. (photo by Eric Skiff)

From Joseph Goldstein and William K. Rashbaum at The New York Times:

The counterfeit bills did not appear intended to fool customers so much as to trick the ATMs into believing they were carrying a full complement of cash. However, in most instances, the machines appeared to have been able to distinguish the fake bills from the real ones, and separate them. A Chase bank official said that the canisters designed to snare bogus bills for this purpose in the ATMs were full of them.

But at least two of the counterfeit bills got through on Monday.

A customer at each of the two Chase branches alerted bank employees that they had received a fake bill, the bank official said. In one case, the customer had made a withdrawal for $20, while the other customer's withdrawal was for $100, the official said.

Both customers discovered the fake bill right away, the official said.

In a statement issued by Chase, the company said: "We are working to get all the facts and don't want to come to any conclusions too early. Obviously, all of our customers who withdrew money will be made whole."

It was not immediately clear whether any other ATMs had dispensed counterfeit bills.

While these counterfeit bills probably won't present much of a problem because they can be spotted right away, more sophisticated fakes are a rare but real scourge for consumers, especially those who rely on cash heavily for day-to-day banking transactions. In a 2006 report, the U.S. Treasury estimated that there is about $75 million worth of counterfeit bills circulating in the U.S. at any given time, or about 1.5 counterfeits for every 10,000 bills.

If you should have the bad luck to receive a counterfeit bill, you're essentially out of luck. It's illegal to knowingly pass counterfeit money on, so the only place the bill should go from there is into the hands of law enforcement.

What do you think? Are banks helpless when it comes to counterfeiting? Have you ever been passed a counterfeit bill? How did you know it was fake? Tell us your story.

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November 07, 2012 at 10:52 pm

ALMOST got a fake hundred from a customer in a strip club where I danced. It would be a logical place to try and ditch fake bills since it is a dimly lit place a the "goods' that you would purchase there are essentially consumed and not returnable - you still get to keep what you got even if you get caught. And this guy did, but not before some 600 dollars worth of lap dances had been given from various ladies in the club.

I don't know what went down with the others, but I was suspicious when the customer handed me a hundred that felt wrong. Literally, as in the paper of the bill felt too much like newsprint or just paper: smooth instead of the way real money has almost a "tread" or "grain" to it that makes it grab and the sound that peeling off a few bills from a stack will make. Though it was dark, my fingers could tell the difference and I know they have a bill checker at the bar, so I informed the customer I would need to go to the bar for change which only made me more suspicious when, at that,he took back the hundred and paid with twenties instead.

Once I got paid though, I immediately let the management and the other ladies know that his money was suspect and that later resulted in him awaiting the police after the bouncers actually grabbed him and threw him in the trunk of the car they used to chase him down when he took off after being found out. It was good that they caught him, because he apparently had a bunch more bills that he was trying to pass off, but unfortunately he'd already cost a few ladies some of their time even though they didn't have to pay the house for the dances that guy bought.

The whole thing was a bit of excitement to the otherwise routing evening, but really I don't see how girls that handle that much cash every single night couldn't tell the bills were funny money! It was really obvious to me once I felt it, and ESPECIALLY once he didn't want me taking it to the bartender for confirmation. And I don't see how that guy was so stupid that he didn't leave immediately after I got paid. People are really stupid.

Claes Bell
October 18, 2012 at 4:19 pm

As a huge space nerd myself, this is one of my favorite reader comments ever, and I sincerely hope Robert's plan comes to pass.

Robert G. Schreib Jr.
October 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Dear Sirs, Up in the International Space Station, in zero gravity, they can forge unique alloys, like a cheap Aluminum/Lead alloy, which CANNOT be forged on Earth. So, the Mint should hire the ISS to mass produce this unique space alloy up there, to produce it in spools of ribbons, to ship to Earth to add tiny pieces of it to ALL dollar bills. This could give the bills a unique electronic signature reading in the electronic bill checkers, which the counterfeiters on Earth with gravity cannot duplicate.

October 11, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Took $3,000 from my account from inside branch Wachovia (Wellsfargo-now). $100.00 of that was counterfeit. When I went back to the bank to tell them, they said once I leave with it I lose. So I won't leave the bank tell they mark my cash now.

eddie forrest
October 11, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Receive a $10.00 bill at a dollar general store went to use it at another store, they informed me it was conferfeit. I called
Secret Service and they informed me I am stuck with it.

October 11, 2012 at 8:45 pm

The CEO was well aware of this...It was done purposely

October 11, 2012 at 5:49 pm

I got $60 out of a Chase cash machine in an Atlanta area drug store. One of the 20 dollar bills was counterfeit, I didn't notice until I tried to use it. This happened about three months ago on the weekend, the bank replaced it when I went in on Monday.