MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach police are investigating multiple reports of counterfeit currency being used at local stores and restaurants.
James Christopher Barrett, of Lancaster, South Carolina, is under arrest and accused of using fraudulent bills in three of the cases under investigation. According to police reports, he first used a fake $100 bill at Zaxby's on Oleander Drive last Thursday. Then on Friday, he used another fake $100 bill at Sally's Beauty Supply on North King's Highway. Employees who were working when he handed over the fake cash say that they didn't realize it was fake until the next day. Barrett finally tried to use another fake $100 bill at the K-Mart just down the road from Sally's Beauty Supply. That's when K-Mart employees called 911 and police arrested him.
Barrett is accused of washing $1 bills and printing the face of a $100 bill right on top. So when employees tested the bills with their counterfeit detector marker, they seemed to be real. Barrett had $244 in real cash on him. Police believe this is all the change he collected from using the counterfeit bills. Charges of forgery are pending against him. A possible second suspect is also being investigated in this case.
Store and restaurant employees are trained to spot counterfeit cash, but it is possible one of these fake bills could end up in your wallet without you realizing it. The Secret Service recommends you double check your cash every time. The fraudulent cash detector markers and scanners won't always work, because some crooks are washing real bills and printing over top of them. Real bills have very detailed and defined lines in the seals, border and serial numbers. So if the lines look fuzzy, the bill is probably fake. Another sign to look for is the texture of the bill. If the bill feels thicker, thinner, smoother or rougher than a normal bill – that's a red flag. If you believe you were given a fake bill, call police immediately.
Right now, Myrtle Beach Police are investigating at least five other cases of counterfeit cash, two of which happened Tuesday night. And it's not just dollar bills to watch out for. Police are warning businesses of customers using fake American Express Traveler's Checks in the Myrtle Beach area.
Using counterfeiting checks or cash is a federal crime with steep consequences. When the Secret Service sees a surge of cases in one location, they will launch a deeper investigation. A call was put in to the South Carolina branch of the Secret Service in Columbia to see just how many counterfeit cases they're investigating in Horry County. The Secret Service has not returned the call yet.