While there’s no massive circulation of counterfeit U.S. dollar bills in the CNMI compared to other areas, U.S. Secret Service special agent Glen Peterson urged Saipan Chamber of Commerce members and guests yesterday not to rely on just one tool, such as a counterfeit money detector pen, but arm themselves with as much knowledge and other gadgets as possible.
“You don’t want to be the last person stuck with it,” Peterson said. “As a business owner you might want to make sure that everyone is aware of what to look for or you’ll get stuck with it.”
The items on bills that people have to look out for are the portrait, watermark, security thread, portrait micro-printing and other micro-printing, and color-shifting ink.
The commonly used counterfeit money detector pen has an iodine solution that reacts with the starch in wood-based paper to create a black stain. When the solution is applied to the fiber-based paper used in real bills, no discoloration occurs.
Peterson said if starch is covered, for example, then the pen is unable to detect starch. Moreover, a genuine $5 bill that is tampered with and made into a $100 bill can pass a pen test because it is made from fiber-based paper but not other types of tests.
Peterson said there are other tools such as handheld black light that could also help detect counterfeit dollar bills.
“Black light is a very good tool,” he added.
Inkjet printers, he said, have made it easy to produce counterfeit bills but they are easier to detect, compared to those using the more sophisticated offset printer.
“Inkjet you can make anywhere so whether it’s Guam, Saipan, anywhere it’s very simple to print but we haven’t had an actual suspect arrested. .Saipan hasn’t been that bad, although there is history here for passing [counterfeit bills],” he said.
Peterson, from the U.S. Secret Service-Guam resident office that has jurisdiction over Guam, the CNMI, the Philippines, Tahiti, Fiji, and nearby areas, was the presenter at yesterday afternoon’s Chamber of Commerce credit card and currency training session.
In the CNMI, there’s about $1,000 worth of counterfeit dollar bills reported in a year, he said, and this include a few $100 bills and smaller $20 bills.
Richard Pierce, executive director of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, said that Peterson’s visit was precipitated by a number of incidents recently where counterfeit currency was seized in Guam and on Saipan.
Peterson passed around counterfeit bills to those who attended the session, including fake $1,000 bills that were suspected to be made in Asian countries.
“When you look at this $100 bill, you see Benjamin Franklin but the water mark is Abraham Lincoln, and this will pass the pen test 100 percent of the time. You know why? What color is this supposed to glow? $100 is supposed to glow red,” he said.
Peterson discussed technical details of what to look for, as well as the history of U.S. currency, the laws, and how to report them, as well as examples of cases involving counterfeit bills.
“We’ve arrested people who said they got it from an ATM machine. [That’s] a hundred percent lie. The banks will run it through a machine first [to determine whether they’re genuine] and we go back to the person and we ask which bank is it. And their story keeps changing,” he said.
Zeny Agda, a Saipan Stevedore accountant for 17 years, said the Secret Service presentation gave those like her a lot of information about counterfeit bills.
“But luckily, our company or at least my department has not encountered fake bills because we mostly accept checks,” said Agda, one of those who attended the Chamber-sponsored presentation.
Jim Arenovski, president of Delta Management Corp., which owns Shell service stations in Guam and Saipan, said his company has “pretty strict procedures” but he said it’s always good to have this kind of presentation by the Secret Service.
“It’s also nice to know that there’s new $100 bills coming out.I didn’t know about the different colors on the black light. (For example, red for $100 bills) We usually look at the three that are inherent in the bill-the color changing ink, the strip and the watermark, three things that we use to teach our staff in the retail business. Now there’s one more tool you can use, a black light and see the different colors,” he added.
Peterson also gave presentation on credit card fraud and how to protect oneself from fraud. More than 10,000 credit card transactions are made every second around the world.
Credit card fraud cost banks about $1 billion annually.