By Yong Chavez
Do you carefully check the cash you receive from anyone? Especially if it's a big amount - you always should. An LA Times story recently exposed the frustrating experiences of a local man who said he got fake money when he cashed a money order at a US Post Office, of all places. Turns out, no place is safe when it comes to counterfeits.
So what do you do when you get counterfeit money? Contact the authorities IMMEDIATELY so it will be established that you are the victim (if you didn't know that the money you got was fake when you got it), not the one passing it off.
Here are the steps, per the US Secret Service, the government branch that deals with this issue.
1.) Do not return it to the passer.
2.) Delay the passer if possible.
3.) Observe the passer's description, as well as that of any companions, and the license plate numbers of any vehicles used.
4.) Contact your local police department or United States Secret Service field office. These numbers can be found on the inside front page of your local telephone directory.
5.) Write your initials and the date in the white border areas of the suspect note.
6.) Limit the handling of the note. Carefully place it in a protective covering, such as an envelope.
7.) Surrender the note or coin only to a properly identified police officer or a U.S. Secret Service special agent
Per Secret Service agent interviewed by the LA Times: "Anyone who receives questionable cash to stop by a bank and ask what the money pros have to say. If a bill is indeed counterfeit, contact the Secret Service and turn it in to authorities. Maybe they'll be able to find out where it came from, maybe not."
Using fake money is a felony - punishable by up to 20 years in prison - and you could be arrested if you get caught passing it off.
Yes, by surrendering the money you'll lose it but, hey, the alternative is prison so think carefully and do the right thing.