Do you know how to tell a real $20 bill from a fake?

Small businesses in Sun City are finding out the hard way.

A couple of businesses along Bell Road believe they were hit by the same guy who paid with counterfeit money.

Doug Kepler manages the New England Clock Shop and says the man bought a watch.

“We gave the guy change back from the $100, over $87 worth of change, that’s what hurts me,” Kepler said.

Erica Doyle owns The Sewin’ Asylum right down the street. She says the man bought scissors from her.

“I ran the marker over the bill, and it indicated it was real,” said Doyle.

Then she took the hundred-dollar bill to the bank.

“They said you have a $5 bill that has been bleached and reprinted to be a $100 bill, and I was crushed.”

The Phoenix area is in the top 10 places in the country for counterfeit bills being passed. You could get a fake at a garage sale or if you sell something on Craigslist.

So who’s watching out for you? Well, those people you usually think of as protecting the president are also responsible for catching the counterfeiters.

“We’re already seeing new 100s counterfeit attempts being made,” says Christina Beloud, a special agent with the Secret Service in Phoenix.

She showed me thousands of fake dollars that had already been processed. We had to put on gloves because investigators look for fingerprints on the bills.

Beloud says $20 bills and $100 bills are the most popular fakes.

She showed me how real bills have texture, which is different from the fakes. And with the new 100s, you can see that with blue security stripe.

“The polymer thread is not woven into the paper, it’s printed on,” she said.

We also looked at other security measures to tell the real from the fake. On the real $100 bill, it’s a portrait of Benjamin Franklin you can only see by holding it to light. The fake we saw had a poor drawing of something, but it didn’t appear to be Franklin.

Beloud says if you think you’re getting a counterfeit, don’t take it; even possessing fakes can be a crime. And she says she’s serious about getting the fake bill passers themselves.

“If you’re a counterfeiter in Arizona, we either know about you or we’re learning about you at a pretty rapid pace.”

To learn more about how to spot a fake bill, visit the Secret Service website at

• Joe Ducey is helping people like you everyday on ABC15 News at 6 p.m. If you’ve got a consumer issue you can’t solve, “Let Joe Know.” Contact him at or (855) 323-1515.

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