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Loss Prevention

Finding Funny Money

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A new counterfeit detection device from Dri Mark Products offers a simple three-way test to confirm the legitimacy of U.S. currency up through $100 denominations.

The Dri Mark Counterfeit Tri-Test Portable Detector was introduced in June at NRF’s Loss Prevention Conference & EXPO. Its 7-inch x 4-inch platter includes an ultraviolet light that validates bills by detecting the security thread that has been embedded in U.S. currency since 1996. A white fluorescent backlight reveals watermarks. The accompanying Tri-Test pen authenticates genuine U.S. currency paper.

Estimating the financial impact of counterfeit bills being passed at retail is difficult, says Mark Dobbs, vice president of marketing for Dri Mark. “The Secret Service estimates losses at less than a billion dollars, but we sold six million [Dual Test] counterfeit protector pens last year, which means a lot of people are encountering problems.”

The company’s new product received a warm response at the LP Show, Dobbs says. “We had tremendous interest from department stores, convenience stores and restaurant chains — some of the largest retailers in the country.”

Two-pronged approach
Port Washington, N.Y.-based Dri Mark suggests that retail customers use both the Tri-Test and the Dual Test. The Tri-Test can be positioned at each store’s busiest point of sale, and the Dual Test can be used at every other register. The potential for a rapid return on investment is significant, Dobbs says.

“Because our systems are so inexpensive, the Tri-Test will pay for itself when it detects just one counterfeit $50 or $100 bill, and the Dual Test will almost pay for itself twice when it catches just one bad $20 bill,” he says.

The latest offering reflects Dri Mark’s bid to stay in front of counterfeiters because it identifies phony paper. The first indication a bill may be bogus is the feel of it, says Dobbs. “It will feel too smooth and too fragile. Also, U.S. currency is printed in a process where the inks are raised, while a laser printer image will not have as crisp an image. A genuine bill will also have texture and a distinctive feel.”

The difference in “feel” between authentic bills and those printed on counterfeit paper is so different that fraudsters have taken to bleaching $1 and $5 bills and printing larger denominations over them. The good news: “This bleaching approach can be detected by both the Tri-Test and Dual Test devices,” Dobbs says.

Despite consumers’ love of credit and debit cards to pay for their purchases, cash is used frequently in neighborhood stores, convenience stores and quick-serve restaurants, as well as for larger-ticket items in areas frequented by tourists.

“Retailers’ bill-counting systems have the ability to spot counterfeit money, but at that point they are only identifying their losses,” Dobbs says. “Our idea is to check bills at the point of purchase to avoid the loss.”