Businesses in Central Texas lose thousands of dollars to counterfeit money each year, and small businesses are at the most risk of being scammed.
Companies that employ fewer than 100 employees lose an average of $155,000 due to fraud each year, according to research from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Counterfeit transactions come through cash and checks, but the lion's share of fraud is committed with forged credit and debit cards, which local experts claim account for more than half of fraudulent transactions. The Waco Police Department's Neighborhood Services Detectives Division is responsible for investigating counterfeit crimes, which authorities said were typically very organized.
"There are hundreds of cases that are open today of fraudulent gangs coming to town from other cities," said Ken Givens, the sales director at U.S. Merchant Payment Solutions, whose expertise includes fraud identification and prevention. "They hit the town from other cities. They hit the town for about six hours, they pass bad credit cards, bad checks and then they leave. So, it's a major economic hurt."
Waco Police frequently use their Facebook page to identify individuals involved in counterfeit money crime rings.
"They get caught," said Officer Sofie Martinez. "Sometimes they're hard to catch because they roam from town to town and sometimes it takes the assistance of several agencies to capture the same group."
Officer Martinez teamed up with Givens and Adam Price from the Better Business Bureau for two free seminars at the Greater Waco Chamber on Tuesday, where small business owners learned about protecting themselves from being ripped off.
Below is some advice for spotting phony transactions.
Roughly one in every ten thousand bills is counterfeit -- meaning approximately $147 million worth of phony American currency is in circulation nationwide. The Secret Service, which is tasked with investigating counterfeit currency, has arrested thousands of people for making bogus money in recent years.
Ultraviolet lights will expose hidden images that can help small business owners identify legitimate U.S. currency. For example, $100 bills have a pink line hidden to the left of Benjamin Franklin, while $50 bills have a yellow line concealed to the right of President Ulysses S. Grant. Twenty dollar bills have green lines, and $10 bills have gold ones, while $5 denominations boast a blue line.
To learn more about cash security precautions and determining whether your currency is real, click here.
Credit & Debit Card Security Measures
Major credit and debit card providers have similar security precautions, as the ones used for bank notes. For example, MasterCard and Visa both use holograms on their cards and embed their personal branding throughout their cards for easy verification by the trained eye. Experts say one problem is that few cashiers bother to verify signatures or ask for identification when someone uses a credit card at a retail store. For some simple tips on spotting fake credit or debit cards, click here. If businesses refuse to upgrade their payment systems and accept chip cards properly, credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard make the businesses 100 percent liable for processing fraudulent transactions.