KINGMAN - Dolan Springs resident Mike Kingsbury was caught by surprise last Saturday when a cashier from The Home Depot told him that his $100 bill was fake. Kingsbury was trying to pay his credit card bill with cash in the store.
"It's something you would not believe until you live it," Kingsbury said. He said he had just gotten two $100 bills from the Wells Fargo Bank on Stockton Hill Road minutes earlier and went directly to The Home Depot.
The Home Depot's cashier as well as a store manager showed Kingsbury why the bill was considered fake and suggested he go back to Wells Fargo as fast as he could.
Kingsbury made it back to Wells Fargo, and a bank manager helped recheck the bill. The result remained the same - it's a counterfeit $100 bill.
"How could this happen?" was the manager's quick question to Kingsbury before Kingsbury had time to ask the same question to the manager.
The manager's logic was that everything, including paper bills, taken out of the cashier's window, should be considered the customers' responsibility. The bank has no way to confirm whether the fake bill came out of the bank or from other sources.
Fortunately, Kingsbury had his way to prove the bill was from the bank. Kingsbury laid out a clear timeline on what just happened with his son, who had been in his company, as his eyewitness.
Kingsbury got his bill from the bank at about 4:45 p.m., and arrived at The Home Depot at about 5. After the cashiers at the store took about 10 minutes to make sure the bill was fake, Kingsbury immediately returned to the bank shortly before 5:30 p.m. At the suggestion of the store manager of The Home Depot, Kingsbury took a minute to report the fake bill to the Kingman Police Department.
The seamless timeline convinced the bank manager something might have gone wrong in the bank.
On Monday, another bank manager talked to Kingsbury about the fake bill and agreed to replace the fake bill with a genuine $100 bill. The bank later agreed to reimburse Kingsbury $15 for his transportation from Dolan Springs to Kingman.
In the whole fake bill drama, Kingsbury said the most important lesson he learned was that one should always check paper carefully, even if they are just coming out of a bank.
"You should always take care of yourself before you can count on others, even banks, to take care of you," Kingsbury said.
Following contact information offered by Kingsbury, the Miner contacted The Home Depot, Kingman Police Department and Wells Fargo.
The Home Depot cited a company policy to turn down an interview request. The case officer from KPD was out of the office this week and unable to respond.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Marjorie Rice, in a telephone interview, called the incident a "highly unusual situation."
"I have been working here in Wells Fargo for seven years and never heard of anything like that," Rice said.
Rice acknowledged that the Wells Fargo's branch in Kingman did replace Kingsbury's counterfeit bill with another new bill, because Kingsbury's description sound very logical.
"We are human beings doing our transactions. No one can guarantee it never happens," Rice said.
At Wells Fargo, Rice said there is a very sophisticated system in place to monitor currencies in every branch across the country, and bank employees are asked to take great precautions to make sure no fault happens in the transaction.
For security reasons, Rice refused to get into details of the system. "We don't discuss any kind of security process because we don't want to tell law-breakers what we are doing," Rice said.
For ordinary customers, Rice said it would always be advisable for them to check cash from any source.
"For example, if I'm at a teller window or a grocery store or whatever and I get change, I count it before I walk away from the window. No teller or any other person will be resentful if you are doing that. It's just common sense," Rice said.
Tips on how to spot counterfeit money
Portrait: A genuine portrait appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background. The counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background that is often too dark or mottled.
Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals: On a genuine bill, the saw-tooth points of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct, and sharp. The seals of counterfeit money may have uneven, blunt, or broken saw-tooth points.
Border: The fine lines in the border of genuine money are clear and unbroken. On counterfeit money, the lines in the outer margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.
Serial Numbers: Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. The serial numbers are printed in the same ink color as the Treasury Seal. On counterfeit money, the serial numbers may differ in color or shade of ink from the Treasury seal. The numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned.
Paper: Genuine currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Often counterfeiters try to simulate these fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper. But on counterfeit money the lines are printed on the surface, not embedded in the paper. It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacturing of United States currency.