Watch out for counterfeit bills as you shop for the holidays

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – With the holiday shopping season approaching, merchants and even consumers may want to make sure the money they are receiving is real.

Counterfeit cash is on the rise in Middle Tennessee. Bogus bills have been dropping like leaves.

Tony Gaines, owner of Sweet T’s BBQ & Catering, told News 2 he fell for it.

“This summer I had a couple of incidents with some fake money that had been passed through my collection,” Gaines said. “Every penny I get counts.”

He was a victim twice but says never again.

“Now I’m more vigilant, inspecting, looking at the money more carefully,” he said.

With the holiday season approaching, police say they see an increase in counterfeit bills. They are encouraging merchants to beware.

“Take that extra few seconds and make sure the money you are handling is not fake money,” said Murfreesboro police Sgt. Kyle Evans. “It’s really easy, especially around the holiday when you’re in a hurry and dealing with a lot of cash, both on the consumer side and the retail side.”

Over a one-week period, counterfeit bills were passed at a Thorntons on Medical Center Parkway. First, there was a counterfeit $100 and then a $10 bill.

One of the customers was from North Carolina. He told police as well as store management he had no idea the money was fake; he claimed he got it from his bank. He was not arrested.

Police said whether you know a bill is counterfeit or not, as a consumer, trying to pass it is a serious crime.

“You want to make extra sure you’re not the one stuck with the phony money at the end. You’re going to be the one out and could face prosecution if you’re trying to pass that off as real money yourself,” Evans told News 2.

There are several ways to detect if money is counterfeit. There are unique markings and watermarks to look out for. And if all fails, you can take the money to your local bank.

The Secret Services estimates there are $9 million in counterfeit bills circulating in the United States.

The Federal Reserve encourages merchants and consumers to know your money. Click here for more information.