Woman got counterfeit bill from Port Richey bank - WFLA News Channel 8

Woman got counterfeit bill from Port Richey bank

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

There was just something about the $20 bill Debbie Castellini got that didn't look right.

"I said, wait a minute – and I measured it to the other two and it was smaller than the other two," Castellini said.

The bill turned out to be counterfeit, but the real shock for Castellini was where she says she got it – the drive-up window of a Wells Fargo bank in Port Richey.

"I'm like, you've got to be kidding me, I got this from a teller from a bank!" Castellini said.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Kathy Harrison said she couldn't comment on specific customer transactions, but said that this situation has been resolved. Castellini said the bank replaced the bill with a real $20 bill.

Harrison said the bank has systems in place to detect counterfeit currency but "no system is completely foolproof." She said when Wells Fargo finds what is believed to be a counterfeit bill, it contacts the Secret Service and conducts its own internal investigation.

About $25,000 worth of fake currency comes into the Secret Service's Tampa field office each week, said Special Agent in Charge John Joyce.

With a copy of the bill Castellini provided to News Channel 8, Joyce traced it using identifiers including serial numbers and manufacturing process. Joyce said this batch of bills – or note - has shown up in the Tampa Bay area three times before, at a Home Depot, a donut shop and a Pizza Hut.

That particular counterfeit note isn't considered a high quality fake, and even with the fourth sighting, it doesn't have a very large circulation compared to others. However, that note and others are part of a crime scheme that keep Secret Service agents on constant alert.  

Joyce said counterfeit currency in the Bay area is "not a very large problem, but again it could become a huge problem if it wasn't addressed."

Each counterfeit bill that comes into the Secret Service office in Tampa is logged in a database, so agents can spot and track trends and see when notes from the same source show up.

Most counterfeit currency made in the U.S. is created digitally, using computers, color copiers and scanners, Joyce said. Counterfeiters overseas still use offset printers, and generally producer higher quality notes.

To tell if bills you get are real:

  1. Check the feel of the note. Bills should feel rough or textured because of the fibers used to produce them.
  2. Look for "color-shifting" ink on a "20" on the bottom right hand corner.
  3. Hold the bill up to the light. You should see a watermark on the right side depicting Andrew Jackson. On the left, you should see a dark-colored "security thread" with the words USA TWENTY.
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