Tales from Wasilla: Funny Money


Wasilla has a problem with counterfeit money. It’s not a new problem: searching the Mat-Su Frontiersman‘s website for “counterfeit” pulls up more than 100 stories going back to at least 2003, at least five since October 14, 2017. It must be pretty sophisticated counterfeiting to be getting passed, right? Apparently, so far this year, the Wasilla Police have responded to twenty-four counterfeit currency calls, mostly at restaurants.

Sophisticated? No, this is Wasilla.

Even the clumsiest possible forgeries seem to be accepted.

Chinese "Practice Money" Offered at Ted Stevens Airport

Chinese “Practice Money” Offered at Ted Stevens International Airport

WC is pretty certain legit US$100 bills don’t have pink Chinese hànzì printed on them or text printed through an upper corner.

Movie Money, Passed in Juneau

Movie Money, Passed in Juneau

A US$50 bill that says “Motion Picture Use Only” in three places on the front and one place on the back would seem to have a kind of a tip off?

If these kinds of fake money are being accepted in Wasilla, well, the people accepting them deserve it.

Maybe Wasilla merchants are a little more sophisticated. The alert from the Wasilla Police Department the public in general, and merchants in particular, on detecting funny money implies slightly highest quality counterfeiting:

(1) If accepting currency from people for items purchased online, meet at a bank or the police station, where the bills can be checked.

(2) On the front lower-right corner of bills, the denomination should be in color-shifting ink.

(3) When holding the bill up to light, you should see a watermark of the portrait that matches the one on the face of the bill.

(4) In various places on the bill you should see microprinting and feel raised text.

(5) There should be a security tag running down the left side visible in the light with the correct face value on it. On the new $100s there is a holographic blue bar next to Benjamin Franklin’s face.

(6) Fake bills usually feel fake because they’re made of poor-quality paper often missing red and blue threads.

True professional counterfeiters know more about currency than the Wasilla Police Department. The print quality of their fake dough is good, but they pass it by careful selection of their targets. Extremely busy, or very young, or obviously unsophisticated counter staff; sellers who have good reason not to be too critical of their buyers and their money; anyone lacking the time, experience or inclination to have a close look. Twenty-four incidents in less than a year in a community as small as Wasilla suggests that Wasilla offers the pros a rich target environment.

The real question, of course, is how many times the fake bills get passed before someone notices they are counterfeit. Happily for Wasilla, it’s unanswerable.

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