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SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2006
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Some using counterfeit bills to help ring in the holidays

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — The use of funny money isn't amusing to local merchants or authorities.

Since late October, there have been at least three instances of counterfeit bills used at Limestone County businesses.

Athens police Capt. Marty Bruce said he doesn't know if the incidents are related, but they are under investigation.

In October, someone passed a counterfeit $100 bill at George's Country Store on New Cut Road, said Limestone Chief Investigator Stanley McNatt.

Athens police received reports this month of counterfeit $100 and $20 bills.

On Dec. 2, police arrested a 35-year-old Athens woman for allegedly using two counterfeit $100 bills at Wal-Mart.

On Thursday, police arrested a 43-year-old Elkmont man for allegedly using two $20 counterfeit bills at Murphy USA, the gas station at Wal-Mart.

Their charges are misdemeanors.

Ideal time for scams

Tricia Pruitt, Decatur area regional vice president for the Better Business Bureau, said the holiday season is an ideal time for scams, including passing counterfeit cash or checks.

"Clerks are busy, and people are waiting in lines," Pruitt said. "It's hard for an employee or even consumers to pay attention to every bill."

Pruitt said the counterfeit bills and checks mean a loss of revenue for businesses, but consumers and businesses can take preventive measures.

Pruitt said machines that detect counterfeit bills are available for businesses. Also, if a merchant is unsure about a bill, he should ask the customer to wait until law enforcement arrives.

"Obviously, if the customer runs, that's a good indication the bill is fake," she said.

Pruitt said consumers could receive a counterfeit bill as change and inadvertently spend it elsewhere.

"If you think a bill looks or feels different, notify the store," Pruitt said. "That way the store may be able to remember who passed it, and the store can contact authorities."

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