By Kurtis Ming

WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — What do you do when a store confiscates your money, claiming it is counterfeit?

When Crystal Mohamed said Target gave her a counterfeit bill for change — a bill that Walmart later confiscated when she tried to use it, the mother of five from North Highlands said she was made out to feel like a thief.

She called Kurtis for answers.

“I shoved it in [my purse] and didn’t give it another glance,” she said.

But the $20 bill she said the Target clerk gave her turned out to be counterfeit.

She said less than an hour later, she tried to spend the bill at Walmart.

“How do you know for sure the $20 bill you used at Walmart, you got from target?” asked consumer investigator Kurtis Ming.

“I pulled it right out of the return receipt they gave me,” she said.

Following protocol, Walmart kept the counterfeit $20, and wrote her a note proving they kept it.

But Mohamed said even with the note, a Target manager refused to give her a real bill.

“Twenty dollars is a lot to me,” she said. “All I can say is I’m a good person, and I’m a victim in it all.”

She may never get her money back.

The Secret Service oversees counterfeit money operations — and told Call Kurtis a lot of counterfeit money is found every week.

The agency’s Scott Gillingham said in his 26-county district — which spans much of Northern California — $20,000 to $50,000 dollars in bogus bills are reported every week.

But it’s just a drop in the bucket.

“When you take into consideration the amount in circulation,” he said, “It’s not [that much].

Many bills are now equipped with color shifting ink that is extremely difficult to replicate, but Gillingham admits you may never be able to prove who gave you a counterfeit bill.

“It’s difficult to verify that once a person leaves the store,” he said.

We reached out to Target which confirmed it was trying to address Mohamed’s frustration.

“We can confirm that we are working with the guest directly to rectify the current situation,” a spokesperson said.

But Mohamed said she’s heard nothing, despite repeated follow-up messages left by Call Kurtis.

Disappointed to be out her $20, Mohamed still feels she learned a valuable lesson.

“I’m just going to have to get in the habit of feeling up my money,” she said, laughing.

The Secret Service said $20 bills are counterfeited most frequently in the United States.

Once stores confiscate them, the bills are handed over to the agency for investigation.

The best advice — pay attention to your change when you get it. If you’re not sure about those security features, you just might want to pull out another bill and compare.

While you can buy pens that detect counterfeit bills, they usually only check the type of paper used in printing the bill. The Secret Service said some counterfeit money involves bleaching $1 bills and turning them into $20s or $100s, and in those cases the pens won’t help.


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