Using Fake Money at Self Checkout by Mistake – Will I Get in Trouble?

Using fake money at the self checkout

Sometimes, counterfeit money can unknowingly come into your possession.

You may then find yourself in a situation where you’re using fake money at self checkout tills in your local grocery or department store.

Not only are counterfeit notes against federal law, but they also have a negative impact on society by reducing the value of real money and increasing inflation rates.

So, will self checkout machines accept counterfeit money and what should you do if you realize that fake money has found its way into your wallet?

Read on to find out.

What should you do if you have fake notes?

You may start to panic if you find yourself handling fake cash accidentally. Try not to worry though as it’s not illegal unless you had the intent to defraud a person or company. Intentional use of dealing with fake currency can lead to a fine and up to 20 years in prison.

According to the United States Secret Service, you should follow the guidelines below if you receive a counterfeit note.

·       Do not give the fake cash back to the person or company that you believe it came from.

·       If you know where the money originated, make a note of important details such as an identity description and any license plates of vehicles that were involved.

·       Get in touch with your local police department.

·       Try to avoid touching the counterfeit bill as much as possible and place it in a protective cover like an envelope.

·       You should then hand over the coins or notes to a police officer or special agent.

·       The fake currency will then be passed to the Secret Service which will then investigate the financial crime.

If you’re visiting another country at the time you come into possession of fake cash, you should still follow the steps below and report it to the local authorities. Check the local laws for crime-related issues before traveling so you are prepared for any unforeseen situations.

How are fake notes made?

Criminals use advanced printers with offset lithographic methods to reproduce high-quality counterfeit currency. Digitally printed counterfeits are also being produced by laser and inkjet printing techniques.

Organized criminal groups are used to break down the production process of fake money to try and stay undetected. For example, one person may be responsible for printing the paper for the money while someone else replicates the security features that you see on real money.

Using fake money actually began in warfare to target the enemy’s economy with fake notes so that the true value of the country’s money would decrease. In the American Civil War, the Confederate States dollar was counterfeited by the Union through the use of banknote paper.

Will self checkout tills take counterfeit currency?

Self checkout tills are fitted with scanners, a UV light, and other technology that can identify fake dollar bills. This means that it’s likely that the money will be accepted and the store could be alerted that counterfeit bills are trying to be used, whether intentionally or unknowingly.

Self checkout fraud

Apart from using counterfeit money to pay for goods, there are other ways that people either unknowingly or intentionally try to trick a self checkout till. These include:

Fake barcodes – a barcode for a cheaper product is placed over the original barcode, alerting the self checkout till to a lower price.

Selecting incorrect items – fresh produce often means that a customer needs to select the right product on the system. Choosing a cheaper product could mean that the incorrect value is entered.

Forgetting to scan products – sometimes, you genuinely miss an item at the bottom of your cart and forget to scan it.

Using reusable shopping bags – items that are added to a customer’s own shopping bag before getting to the self checkout can often be missed and not paid for.

Kiosk cameras, random audits, utilizing artificial intelligence, and weighing technology are effective ways to prevent theft and fraud in retail stores.

Scan & Go technology

Scan & Go is a new type of self checkout service that retailers use to make the customer experience easier, quicker, and more secure. In fact, 77% of shoppers said they would be more likely to shop in a store that offered Scan & Go technology.

Barcode technology is used by the shopper on a handheld device to scan items that they want to buy. The products are added to a virtual basket in the same way that online shopping works. The user can then pay for their items by entering their card details and taking their goods home. A more advanced version of this technology is a Scan & Go app, which works in the same way but is done via an app on the user’s smart device and camera. The app is linked to the user’s payment card to make buying items more seamless. Scan & Go technology does not accept cash, which makes it impossible to pay for goods with counterfeit money.

From a retailer’s perspective, there are security risks associated with using this technology and measures need to be implemented in the store to prevent theft and fraud. User identification, cameras, and training employees to carry out audits are essential procedures that should be implemented to help reduce theft and fraud.

If a shopper accidentally forgets to scan an item that they place in their bag, it will depend on the store’s additional security policies and technology as to whether they get alerted to accidental or intentional theft.

Will a bank replace fake money received?

It’s unlikely that your bank will offer to reimburse you for any fake money that you have been unknowingly given. The police will deal with the situation by trying to track down where the money came from and take it out of circulation.

Will vending machines accept fake cash?

Like self checkout tills, vending machines use computers to detect fake bills. It will scan the note and look for signs that the money is counterfeit such as incorrect watermarks or markings. A vending machine will also weigh notes and coins to make sure they weigh the correct amount. If a note or coin is too light or too heavy, this could mean that the money is fake.

Any counterfeit cash that is inserted into a vending machine will be rejected and returned to the owner. If a vending machine declines real money, it could be because the bill is facing the incorrect way or the edges are crumpled and need to be smoothed out before re-inserting.

Can shops confiscate fake money?

Shops and businesses are entitled to reject and confiscate any coins or bills that they believe could be fake. In the same way, if a customer is given change from their purchase that they think is counterfeit, they can ask to be paid with a different note or coin.

Businesses and individuals that come into possession of counterfeit money should hand it to the nearest police department.

What happens if a bank gives you a counterfeit bill?

It’s unlikely that you will receive counterfeit bills from a financial institution such as a bank or ATM because of the strict security measures and technology that they have in place to prevent counterfeit money from entering circulation.  

When banks are given fake money, whether intentionally or not, they will hand it over to the Secret Service so the origin can be investigated. Whilst most counterfeit notes and coins come from retail outlets, there’s still a small chance that some have passed through a bank’s security measures and ended up being handed to you. If this happens, return it to the bank or branch of the ATM as soon as possible. Providing details of the transaction such as the location and time will help with the bank’s investigation.

How does counterfeit money affect the economy?

Fake money is circulated around the world, causing adverse effects on a country’s economy such as:

Devaluation of currency – when there is more money in circulation than there should be, this causes a rise in prices and inflation. This means that people pay more money for goods and services than they should.

Encouraging the black market to grow – an increased circulation of fake cash also leads to more illicit goods being sold in exchange for cash. When prices of things go up, more people are likely to turn to the black market for their goods.

A lack of public confidence – the biggest consequence of counterfeit money is that people start to lose faith in their economy and don’t spend as much as they normally would, further damaging the economy.

Can you exchange counterfeit money?

Fake money is worthless, so it can’t be exchanged for real cash regardless of where it came from.

Is American money easier to counterfeit?

It could be argued that American bills are one of the easiest currencies in the world to reproduce because it isn’t made from polymer (a type of plastic that is hard to copy). Instead, American currency is printed on a type of paper made from cotton and linen.

Is fake money used in TV and movies?

In films, you will often see large amounts of cash being used for some storylines. Instead of using real bills, TV and film producers will either stick a $100 bill to a pile of $1 bills to make it look like they are all $100 bills or use fake notes to give the illusion of real cash.

Depositing fake checks

Intentionally depositing a fake check is against federal law. Fake check scams are used by criminals to trick people into depositing money or buying items and sending it back to the scammer before anyone detects that the check is counterfeit.

To avoid a fake check scam:

·       Don’t use money from a check that a stranger has sent you to purchase gift cards or other goods.

·       Never accept a check that appears to be too good to be true and is higher than the value of the item that you’re buying or selling.

·       Don’t pay for prizes that you have won from an online competition. If you’re asked to pay taxes and fees for a prize, it’s likely to be a scam.

The biggest issue with fake checks is that detecting a fake check can take a while. By that time the scammer has your money and you will need to repay the bank. Before depositing a fake check, speak to your bank for advice. If you believe that you have been the victim of a fake check scam, report it immediately to your local police department or federal trade commission authority.

What is the difference between counterfeit and forgery?

If somebody produces or adapts an object or document to intentionally defraud somebody, this is known as a forgery. If an individual is deceived out of their own money, additional penalties may be added for the criminal.

Making or re-creating an article without authorization with an intent to defraud is referred to as counterfeiting.

Tips on identifying fake money

As technology advances, detecting fake money can be difficult because of the counterfeiting tools used in the creation process. An ultraviolet light or a special pen test is often used by businesses to check that money coming in is real, however, individuals may not have access to these tools.

We’ve described the ways to help you identify fake bills at home.

Check the color-shifting ink

To check if a bill is authentic, the first thing to do is check that the denomination on the bottom of the bill has color-shifting ink. To do this, tilt the note backward and forwards. The number should change from either green to black or from gold to green. If it doesn’t, the note you’re holding is likely to be a fake.

Look at the watermark

One of the main security features of most currencies is the watermark. A genuine watermark should meet the criteria below:

·       Only visible when the bill is held up to the light.

·       Located on the right-hand side of the note.

·       Exactly match the face on the bill (if the watermark is a face like on newer notes).

If a note is missing a watermark completely, or it doesn’t match a face on a bill, it’s probably a fake note.

Feel for raised printing

To make it hard for money to be reproduced, authentic notes use a technique called raised printing to make the bill textured. Simply run your finger slowly down the note and feel for some small bumps across your nail or skin. If the bill is completely smooth, it’s worth doing some other checks and investigating the note further.

Check the embedded thread

A thin strip on authentic bills runs from the top to the bottom of all bank notes. On $10 and $50 notes, the security strip can be found on the right-hand side of the portrait, and on $5, $20, and $100 bills it’s on the left-hand side. The official microprinted phrases on authentic notes are:

• $5 – “USA FIVE”

• $10 – “USA TEN”

• $20 – “USA TWENTY”

• $50 – “USA 50”

• $100 – “USA 100”

Consider the clarity of the printing and text

Authentic notes are extremely detailed because of the printing plates that are used to create ultra-fine lines. Blurry lines or text on bills could be a sign that the note is fake. If you’re unsure, use a magnifying glass to check the readability of the printed text. If you still can’t read it, it’s probably a fake bill.

Use an ultraviolet light

If you can get access to a UV light, a quick way to check whether a bill is real or counterfeit is to see what color the security thread glows.

• $5 – blue

• $10 – orange

• $20 – green

• $50 – yellow

• $100 – the thread glows pink or red

Look at the blue and red threads

Small blue and red threads are printed on the fabric of notes to create a pattern that is engrained in the note and hard to replicate. On counterfeit bills, the pattern is likely to be printed just on the surface instead.

Read the serial number

Lastly, take a close look at the bill’s serial number. The first letter of the serial number should match the year the bill was printed. For example, E corresponds to 2004 and J corresponds to 2009. In these examples, you should see E and 2004 printed on the bill or J and 2009. If not, it’s counterfeit.

Using fake money unknowingly

To summarise, you won’t get into trouble if you weren’t aware that the money you used to pay for something was counterfeit. It’s still important to report any fake bills or coins to your local police department so they can prevent criminal gangs and illegal activity from occurring.

For answers to other common financial questions such as “how much money is printed each day?” and “A bar charged my card twice – what should I do?”, visit our hub of financial resources.

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