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.
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.