They're out there The eyes have it, when sussing fake money By Chris Woodall A sigh of relief squeaks past the retailer's lips when the North Shore Credit Union teller finishes using a "magic pen" on the retailer's American currency; no counterfeit money today. The pen's ink will turn black if the greenbacks are fakes. The retailer would be out the real worth if that were the case; the credit union and every other financial institution refuses to get stuck with the bogus bills. Whistler has had a light flurry of counterfeit money enter the tills of local stores and entertainment spots in recent months. There are some easy tests to discover funny money, however, that employers and their staffs should know to make it harder to pass the phoney baloney in the first place. The first and easiest rule to follow is "the eyes have it." Tracey Rakurea, member service manager at North Shore Credit Union, holds out two $50 bills for inspection by the inquiring reporter. "The eyes of the real bill will have extreme detail," she says. A portrait on a bogus bill will have blotches where the pupils are, or the eyes will simply look dull. Counterfeit bills usually turn up in the night deposit bags of retailers. When the credit union discovers the fakes, it contacts the Mounties, Rakurea says. "We usually don't get any counterfeits over the counter." The marker pens the credit union uses to point out bad bills are another quick way to identify the impostors. The mark stays golden yellow if the bill is clean, black like a counterfeiter's heart if it ain't. The pens can be ordered through a stationery store for about $20, or inquire at the credit union. The brand name is Counterfeit Money Detection Pen. Just feeling the paper should give you some clues. If the paper is smooth, without any raised lines, numbers or lettering, the bill may be counterfeit. Look for "planchettes," small, light green dots. They are imbedded in real money as the paper is made and can be peeled off with a fingernail. Fake bills may have the "dots," but you would destroy the bill before you got them off. New American currency has blue and red mylar threads in the paper that, like Canadian planchettes, can be removed, or should appear to be woven into the paper. "It goes in waves," Const. Ruth Yurkiw at the RCMP commercial crime counterfeit section in Vancouver says of counterfeiting. "Right now we have a degree of a problem with $10 notes, as well as with $20 and $50 notes." The fakes are being printed on high-end colour copiers, Yurkiw says. A give away is the glossy nature of these reproductions. But those hi-tech copiers are no friends to fake money makers. "Canon and other companies build certain security features into their machines so copies can be traced back to them," Yurkiw says. Some foreign bills have watermarks — a nearly-invisible graphic seen only when the bill is held up to light. Yurkiw says American $100 bills will sport a watermark soon. Canadian currency won't go that route until the millennium. "We don't get a lot of foreign notes, but we had some British pound notes in the fall that were very good," Yurkiw says. As for coins, forget it. "They just aren't a money maker" for counterfeiters, Yurkiw says. A surprising development in the war against counterfeiting is that so many $10 phoneys are on the street. Bogus bills usually show up as $20, $50 or $100 notes. The theory is that a $10 fake may slip past a retailer's inspection as he or she keeps watch for larger denominations. Some criminals go to a lot of effort to dodge inspection. The magic pens may not reveal the dog in the manger if the bills have been treated with corn starch, Yurkiw says. One of the best ways to know what you're looking for is to go to one of Whistler's financial institutions and ask to see a phoney note, advises Yurkiw. "Look for differences, not similarities." When a retailer suspects he or she is being passed a bad bill, try to subtly call the police so they can be on hand to interview the funny money owner. "Retailers shouldn't be embarrassed to question the person about the money," Yurkiw says, although she acknowledges this may be tough to do when faced with a high roller. "If you have a fake, you're out the money. For some small retailers, that could mean a lot."