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Medford police note recent surge in counterfeit 20s

Medford police report seeing an end-of-the-year surge in hard-to-spot fake bills despite 2014 having fewer cases of counterfeit cash than 2013 overall.

Investigators say there have been 31 counterfeit cases reported since Nov. 1, with a majority of cases at gas stations and convenience stores around the city. Chevron, Shell Station, Flamingos, Astro Gas and Minute Market are among the businesses to report the bogus currency.

Recently, the quality of the bills involved has been markedly better, as suspects have taken legitimate $1 bills, bleached them, and reprinted $20 designs on both sides, police said. An easy identifier in counterfeit bills is their texture. Counterfeiters frequently use paper, but legitimate bills are made from cotton fibers.

"It has the right feel, because it's real government currency," Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said. "The feel is usually the first thing that tips somebody off that it's a fake bill."

But police say the bills don't have the shifting ink or security strip that identify actual currency. Many of the bills also have similar serial numbers. With the ongoing Christmas holiday rush, hurried clerks sometimes just accept the bills as is, police said .

"It's actually being noticed by the managers when the money is being counted at the end of the day," Budreau said. "Sometimes it makes it to the bank, but mostly it was discovered by the businesses."

Police are urging clerks, cashiers and managers to take an extra hard look at business earnings, as the cash could be recirculated back to other consumers as change and unintentionally passed to other businesses.

Overall, counterfeit cases for 2014 have seen a significant drop compared with 2013. There were 389 cases for all of 2013, with 199 reported through November of this year.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Medford police at 541-770-4784.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.