The U.S. Secret Service is charged with finding people who make fake money and try to pass it as real. Although most people believe the Secret Service were always the agency who protected the president, that isn’t the case. President Lincoln signed the document creating the Secret Service to arrest counterfeiters as well. Today, that remains the agency’s main purpose, but the duties have expanded to include protecting the president, dignitaries and heads of state from other countries, credit card fraud, financial fraud and schemes, and more. The need to fight the counterfeiters continues as strong as it was in Lincoln’s day. In fact, the number of counterfeiters are rising.
Two Factors Lending to Rise in Counterfeiting
Holiday shopping and sales associate fatigue both contribute to the rise in counterfeiting. During the Christmas shopping season, so many people are in the stores that counterfeiters can take advantage. Sales clerks want to get people through the line as quickly as possible, so they don’t pay attention to the money they are handling. They are used to seeing people carrying $20 bills, so they think nothing of it when someone hands them a twenty. In addition, store managers have too few staff and too many hours to work. It is not uncommon for sales associates to work 12 hours or more during Christmas. This means they are tired and stretched to the limit. Coupled with the sheer numbers standing line, it’s no wonder that checking for counterfeit bills is a low priority.
In addition, people making fake money are using more advanced technology. As technology advances, the quality of the counterfeit is harder to discern. In some cases, it virtually not detectable unless you are a trained agent. As the world becomes a marketplace through the Internet, you can purchase the ingredients needed to make fake American dollars. For example, a man recently caught in Canada ordered the special paper that U.S. Mint uses from a supplier in Germany and the special ink from a supplier in China. He also found through the Internet the right type of offset printer to make the bills run in sequential serial numbers, which is one of the determining factors that money is fake.
Who Are the Top Counterfeiters?
- Alvos dos Reis — forged contracts with the Banco de Portugal. He received banknotes from official printers. Therefore, his money was real. In 1925, he had pumped $1.7 million into the Portugal economy. When the scam was revealed, Portugal faced financial crisis that led to a dictatorship taking over the country.
- Edward Mueller — did such a great job on his counterfeiting that he remained uncaught for a long time. He holds the record for the longest to go without getting caught. His genius was in going small. He opted to counterfeit $1 instead of $100 in New York. He was eventually caught after more than 10 years of getting away with it.
- Bernhard Kruger — was part of the Nazi currency counterfeiting operation. The goal of the counterfeiting was to destabilize Allied goverments’ economies. The counterfeiting also was meant to bring in cash for the war. In the concentration camps, the Nazi counterfeiter funneled $6 billion worth of British pounds into the economy.
- Mike DeBardeleben — shopped in the malls in 1980s with his fake $20 bills. In the exchange, he would get real currency back. When he was identified, the country set a search upon him. He was caught and sex crimes were also closed when evidence against him was found.
- Stephen Jory — is known as Great Britain’s most infamous counterfeiter. He began his career by swapping cheap perfume with expensive pieces wdesigner labels. Although he admitted to counterfeiting $82 million worth of bills, the British government believes the number is higher. His counterfeits made up two-thirds of the number of fake bills in circulation between 1993 and 1998.
- Arthur Williams — started counterfeiting at age 16 in Chicago. His mother’s boyfriend mentored him in the trade. For more than 10 years, he printed $10 million. He paid attention to the changes in the security features and adapted his system to include them. He employed automotive paint to create color-changing ink, favored newsprint paper for the U.S. Mint’s special paper blend and drew watermarks. The government caught him in 2002 and gave him three years prison time.
- Wesley Weber — created Canadian hundreds that were so close to the real thing, retailers refused to accept any Canadian hundreds. Because of his success, the Canadian government decided to change the look completely.
- Anastasios Arnaouti — could have brought down two economies. The British counterfeiter had $4.1 million in 10-pound notes and $3.5 million in American hundreds when he was caught. He had dumped much more into circulation.
- Albert Talton — decided to go simple and succeed. He counterfeited $7 million using an inkjet printer.
- Pakistani Government — Pakistan creates fake Indian money and smuggles it across the border. This counterfeiting is related to terrorism and grudges against India.
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