Black Friday is a prime time for criminals to slip in a counterfeit bill or two when they pay at the register, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Billions of forged American dollars are spread across the world. Each year during the holiday shopping season, Secret Service agents in San Francisco see a noticeable uptick in the number of people trying to pass off a copy machine C-note as a U.S. Mint C-note. Each week, the local Secret Service office collects $55,000 in fake bills from Northern California banks, and that number is expected to jump before Christmas. For some merchants, like Target or Best Buy, the fake $100 bills are just the cost of doing business.
For some small businesses, hoping holiday season sales will help balance a slow year, a few phony notes can ruin the bottom line. Cole Hardware in San Francisco learned that lesson this year after getting hit three times in August by someone dropping fake $100 bills. “When somebody realizes they can use it, they come back the next day and the next day,” said Julia Strzesieski, the store’s marketing director. “It is hard for small business. We have better systems in place now. Every time we take a bill that is $20 or more, we check it with the counterfeit pen.” It is mostly up to merchants to protect themselves, because the government doesn’t reimburse them for accidentally accepting fake money.