Customers Claim That Wachovia Is Handing Out Counterfeit Bills

Something shady may be afoot at a Central Florida Wachovia branch…two customers say that a teller gave them counterfeit bills, according to Local 6 news in Orlando. The bank is refusing to give them a refund, claiming that they have no way of knowing if those counterfeit bills are the same ones the teller gave out, but Local 6 says that they’ve learned that Wachovia previously gave a customer with a similar story a refund.

“It is really frustrating for us,” Garcia said. “The bank is not doing anything about it. (It’s) just not giving us any solutions at all.”

A Wachovia representative said it will not refund any money because it can’t verify the $1,000 in counterfeit notes were the same bills Garcia was handed by their teller.

But weeks later, Wachovia did refund $40 to another customer with a similar story, Local 6 has learned.

Garcia said Wachovia is ripping him off and has alerted the sheriff’s office, the Secret Service and the media.

“Ten (bills) in one transaction to come from one bank, that is definitely unusual,” U.S. Secret Service representative Jim Glendinning said.

“But is it possible?” Pipitone asked.

“Remotely, yes it is,” Glendinning said.

Bank of America caught the fakes when the couple tried to deposit the money into their account with that bank. The Secret Service agent speculated that if the fakes did come from Wachovia — it was likely that an employee was in on the scam.

Bank Gave Counterfeit Bills, Couple Says
[Local 6](Thanks, Becky!)

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  1. Mr.SithNinja says:

    It could be that one particular teller is passing out fake bills and pocketing the real ones. Just a theory….

  2. ogman says:

    Is this how Wachovia is going to make up that 8.9 billion?

  3. outinthedark says:

    I dunno what was up with the link before but I went to the local6 website.

    I actually had my account at the branch in question. I hope it burns down…I hate that branch…

  4. MayorBee says:

    @ogman: You beat me to it!

  5. He says:

    I’d trust the guy with the wedding coming up who hasn’t been charged with anything over the bank every time. The future lesson is that he should have used a check or an electronic transfer. If you aren’t computer savvy, banks should be able to do it for you in person so long as you have all the info for the other account. Then again, he might have known that and been doing this to avoid a fee.

  6. Breach says:

    Looks like it is time for the rats to desert the ship!

  7. mhguy703 says:

    I had this happen to me at a branch in the Washington, DC area. Withdrew the money to make a purchase that I later chose not to make. Two days later went to redeposit the money at another branch a block from my office and two of the bills were counterfeits. The branch mgr treated me like a criminal and did nothing to help me. I immediately went to the branch where I had received the bills from and talked to the financial center mgr that knows me by name.

    After approximately two weeks I was able to get my money back from the branch.

  8. acasto says:

    I think I’d believe the guy in this case. I could see someone trying to slip past a few fake bills, but not trying to deposit a whole handful in person. That’s just asking for trouble.

  9. Triborough says:

    Perhaps this is Wachovia testing out their new way to boost revenue – make their own.

  10. papahoth says:

    Since no one has done it, I will step into the breech. Its the customer’s fault for not recognizing they were counterfeit since new bills mayke it easy to tell. Everyone should expect their bank to hand out bogus money now. BTW, have they issued new $100 bills yet?

  11. woot says:

    As someone with inside information, I can assure you that multiple fake bills are highly suspicious.

    Wachovia procedure is for the teller to check as the bills are deposited. If bills are fake, they are not accepted, the customer is advised, the bill is confiscated, and it’s reported to the secret service (on their form, with the bill attached). All banks do this.

    OK, so what happens if the teller misses it? Well, each teller is responsible for their own drawer of cash and, when a certain amount of money is in there they have to “sell” that drawer back to “the vault” (which is a different teller, using an automated money counter that detects fraudulent bills most of the time, but not always). When caught there, there are forms to fill out and it still gets reported to the secret service.

    As an added measure, exchanging cash between tellers is strongly discouraged so that nobody could realistically expect to be able to get away with a closed-loop of fraud. Wachovia like everything to go through what they call “money centers” away from the branch.

    So, to really do this wholesale, you really need an orchestrated scheme.

    Bottom line: sounds like an inside job. Probably by more than one person, since you have to get by both the teller and the vault-teller. Some idiot might try it, but the system is set up to quickly catch, defeat, and jail them.

  12. snoop-blog says:

    Hundreds? Oh no that’s a problem. However give me a stack of fake 20′s, and I’ll make it work.

  13. AnxiousDemographic says:

    The bogus bills could have been inserted by the armored car guards or somewhere upstream of the branch. I assume they dispense more cash than they take in at the branch.

    They still are at fault for shafting the customer, though.

  14. spikespeigel says:

    Central Florida. Oh, geez. Getting closer to me.

  15. @acasto: In the article, it says that 10 out of 36 of the $100 bills were fake, so the counterfeits were mixed in with legit bills.

    The bank is in a unfortunate situation here. They are already catching heat for their financial woes, and will now get negative publicity over this. The alternative, however, is to give those people the thousand dollars and essentially they will expose themselves to people trying to pull a scam on them. I’m not saying that this couple is pulling a scam on them, just that others may see an opportunity to exchange phony money for good money.

    Having worked a job in which I encountered counterfeit money daily, it was always difficult to tell people that their money was no good, we had to confiscate it and turn it in to the Secret Service, and we weren’t going to replace it. Some knew the money was bad, and that they got it from someone/somewhere else, and were just trying to get their money back somehow. Others didn’t know, and they weren’t happy. Still others not only knew, but were actively engaged in its manufacturing and distribution. Those guys usually ran.

  16. woot says:

    AnxiousDemographic: The cash all comes sealed, so the armored guards couldn’t do it, but someone at the Wachovia Money Center could conceivably attempt that, but that would track back to individual employees (everyone has to sign each “strap” of cash (bound bunch of notes) to certify nothing is wrong with it).

  17. ibored says:

    @woot

    your missing a step though, if the teller brought the fake bills in in their pocket and then switched them in the drawer and dispensed them it would never go to the vault teller.

    However it would likely be very noticeable on security cameras. Lets see how this turns out, you can’t really brush off the secret service like you can a customer.

  18. SacraBos says:

    @woot: I guess the question is how much of that it checked? Certainly, every bill is not checked at every transfer point, and a strapped bunch of cash might be considered “safe” and not checked. So at what point could a fake be inserted by someone that it would break the chain of traceability before it was likely discovered?

  19. timmus says:

    Seeing as how counterfeits are becoming more common I am now extremely leery about dealing with ANY $100 bills. The thought of giving up a $20 that’s found to be fake is no big deal, but a $100 bill? That makes me want to open up a can of whoop-ass.

  20. BeeBoo says:

    This happened to a family I know who took money out of the bank for their 80+ year old mother over a period of many years. What they didn’t know is that she hoarded it.

    After she died, they found envelopes hidden all over the place still filled with the cash and withdrawal slips exactly as they came from the bank.

    When they took the money back to the bank (same branch) to deposit, they were told that several hundred dollars’ worth of twenty dollar bills were fake. But the bank wouldn’t take them for deposit or exchange, even after they talked to the branch manager. They didn’t care that the bills came from their bank in the first place.

    To add insult to injury, the bank confiscated the bills but nobody from the Secret Service ever contacted them.

    I advised them not to take their subsequent finds to the bank to deposit, but to spend it instead.

  21. Edge231 says:

    So they took out $1000 in cash from one bank to deposit into another? Who the hell does that?

    I sure would not want to carry that much cash…even if it was for a short time. I would rather write myself a check from the from old bank account or withdraw in the form of a money order.

  22. AgentTuttle says:

    The real joke is that the fake ones are just as worthless as the “real” ones. The value is only based on faith. Check this out:[www.libertydollar.org]

    This company was trying to make inflation proof money. You know, REAL gold and silver coins instead of paper. They had all their sh1t seized for counterfeiting, although, because the value is in the coin, it IS real money. Meanwhile, Disney dollars are allowed to exist.

  23. nonzenze says:

    Sounds like a nice scam to get rid of your shitty counterfeits at face value. Considering you can buy those bills off the street for 5-10% face, that’s a tidy 10-20x profit!

  24. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    I’m going to presume that the customer was taking money out of a Wachovia savings account and moving it to a checking account. In which case, writing a check from the savings account wasn’t really an option. I’m sure he would have done so, if he could.

    As for a money order or an electronic transfer, those cost money.

    The article doesn’t say the Wachovia account was a checking account, a savings account or even a cashed in CD. But if you think about the likely options, I’m going with Wachovia savings account and a customer who doesn’t think he should have to pay for the ability to transfer his own money among banks.

  25. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    @AgentTuttle:
    Dear Paultard,

    Please go back to Loony Land & take your Ameros with you!
    Perhaps the Rev. Dr. Ron’s blimp is available for that trip.

    Thank you,
    A sane person.

  26. Edge231 says:

    >> But if you think about the likely options, I’m going with
    >> Wachovia savings account and a customer who doesn’t think
    >> he should have to pay for the ability to transfer his own
    >> money among banks.

    A money order costs very little money. It is a wise purchase considering that consumers spend more money of beer, gas, food etc…

    Something feels fishy about the person in the story. If Secret Service finds out a Wachovia teller committed fraud, then sure Wachovia should give $1000 to the consumer again. If I were Wachovia, I would not also being handing out money until an investigation is done.

  27. Kajj says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: Lol. Bootstraaaps!

  28. I wonder if the customers where just trying to launder a bit of counterfeit cash through the bank.

  29. chemman says:

    I had a Wachovia teller give me a fake $100 bill around Christmas time. The teller counted the money behind the counter and stuck in an envelope, I just checked the tops of the bills to make sure it was all there. Right after I left the bank I pulled it out and saw the bill with black marks all over it. Went right back, the teller denied giving it to me. They called secret service and gave them all my info and then told me to leave and come back with the bill the next day when the manager showed up. I refused to leave with it so they took it and then wouldn’t give me proof they were keeping my $100. I ended up calling the police and filing a report to document my side, the cop told me this has happened before there. Took me two weeks and a number of calls to management (threats to move my money market, saving, checking accounts and mortgage probably helped too) to get them to credit my account the $100.

  30. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    @Edge231: In retrospect, it certainly does seem that a money order would have been worth its cost. However, living in a small city where all the banks are quite literally on the same block, I can also see weighing the cost and effort in setting that up against just walking across the street and deciding against bothering. If his banks had extremely nearby branches, as in within a block or two, I can see chancing it. Being worried about losing it, or being held up, would be the normal problems I’d have thought about, until now. Counterfeit money accepted without recourse from my own bank? Wouldn’t have seen that one coming. From now on, I’d certainly think twice before just walking the money even a short distance. Not having been on notice? This story could easily have been about me.

  31. varro says:

    @Mr.SithNinja: That’s exactly what happened in the mid-90s at the University of Miami – a bursar’s office employee was putting fake 20s in the till, taking out real ones, and passing the fake bills to students cashing checks there.

    Pretty soon, fake 20s popped up all over campus, and the Secret Service shut that scheme down.

  32. @Cogito Ergo Bibo:

    Bank counter checks are usually provided free of charge. I was closing my account and moving across country. The bank suggested a counter check. When I got to the new bank, the Counter Check was accepted the same as cash.

    Since then I have used Counter Checks for all large cash withdraws. Maybe because I am a nice person, or because I keep a few bucks on deposit, but either way I have never been charged for a Counter Check.

  33. chemman says:

    By the way, the bank manager claimed there was no way their teller could have given me the bill by mistake because was so well trained, she was one of their best employees. I asked to see the tape of her counting the bills behind the counter to see if you could see the HUGE black marks on both side of the bill from the counterfeit pen and they of course refused. The manager told the police the same thing, so I told the cop “well, if that’s the case, either I’m lying to you and called you here on myself or that teller purposefully passed me that bill and I want her charged with theft” The cop said he was only willing to take down a copy of the incident at that point and gave me a case number and left.

  34. stevejust says:

    Maybe Wachovia’s trying to preempt a run on their bank by handing out fake cash? That could make people think twice about lining up… but it’s also probably a great way start a run on their bank.

    It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. I hope they figure out whether it was an inside job at the bank or the customer. The customer is either really ballsy, or incredibly stupid if they’re trying to pull a fast one, though.

  35. forgottenpassword says:

    I think what could have happened is a teller that waits until someone withdraws a large amount of cash & then gives the customer all (or mostly) counterfiet bills. And then pockets the real bills. Would be a good way to get rid of a large amount of counterfiet bills in one transaction.

    Hmmm….looks like when I take out a large amount of cash (which is very rare for me)…. I guess I should have the teller sign each bill to prove that it came from that bank? WHat about stamping it? Or using a counterfieting pen to check each bill right there at the teller station? Of course some counterfiet bills are so good that they pass those pen tests.

    Christ! Imagine withdrawing 10,000 dollars in 100s & half of them fake!!? And the bank saying they cant do anything about it. Tough luck huh?

    Good thing I rarely deal in cash (I withdraw a twenty maybe once a month & use my credit card or checks for everything else).

  36. forgottenpassword says:

    btw… what is to stop some crooked cashier from telling me my 500 dollars in real 100 dollar bills I was trying to deposit…are fake & confiscating them all (and them pocketing it)?

  37. woot says:

    @ibored: Every bill that goes to the vault teller is checked (to get there, the bills have to be “strapped” in groups, and all strapped groups are checked, always). As for surveillance, though, the cameras in a lot of branches create a single recording based on switching sequentially through multiple cameras. Thus, if there are 8 cameras and you are under camera 1 with a 2 second recording interval, then there are 14 seconds out of every 16 when you are NOT being recorded. And even when you are, those are not the greatest resolution cameras, so you are unlikely to be spotted. Rather, you’ll be found out by other means as discussed previously.

    @SacraBos: “strapped” cash is not considered “safe” until it is checked in through the vault-teller procedure.

    @corporate-shill: While counter checks are free to customers, it’s not the smartest way to move money. In particular, some places don’t accept them due to fraud. An official check (aka “cashiers check”) is a better option. A slightly more expensive option is a money wire, which is good also. These do cost money, but the fees are minimal.

  38. edrebber says:

    Suppose a previous customer made a cash deposit and the teller used that money to fund this customers withdrawal.

  39. bkpatt says:

    Hello, Wall Street? This is Wachovia… can you fax us the delisting paperwork? We’re &^%$ed.

  40. @BeeBoo: So some unsuspecting small business owner gets stuck with a fake bill? Nice.

  41. Edge231 says:

    @edrebber: Good point.

    When I have deposited cash, the tellers have never checked if my cash was real or not in front of me.

    I don’t know if they do it after I left the bank.

  42. FairMarkets says:

    @edge231: A lot of banks place holds on checks even local ones. There have been many times where I have had to transfer money quickly from my business account at one bank to my personal at another bank. Fortunately, they are in the same parking lot and cash withdrawal/deposit is the fastest and most convenient method. This type of transaction is not indicative of a scam.

    Keep in mind that this story is very rare and the odds of something like this actually happening to you are probably higher than you winning the lottery. Cash is still good method for conducting personal business.

  43. @AgentTuttle:

    At first I was going to tell you that AFAIK it was illegal for Americans to own gold for non jewelry, medical, industrial, and numanistic purposes, but apparently it is in fact now legal to own gold coins:
    [en.wikipedia.org] (read the last paragraph). I still think the website is sketchy as hell though. Also, the value of all the goods in the American economy (which is what backs the dollar), is and will aways be more valuable than all the precious metals ever mined.

  44. Zagroseckt says:

    I’ve had tellers at my personal branch (not this bank btw)
    they push money through the now (slit) across to me i check them and go and hand back one of the bills (it’s happend a few times. bill dosnt pass my checks) and say this bill is unexceptible it’s missing (security mesure hear) and they go all i cant take that you have it now.

    but i never left the branch and it never goes past the main bank maniger i WILL call the cops on the bank. and have :p

    sorry teller lady but you took it i cought it as you gave it to me so it’s not my problem.

    Note i did (not leave the bank nore the window)

  45. RvLeshrac says:

    How were they checked?

    James Randi regularly has his secretary withdraw a large sum of money in cash, lays it on a table, sprays it with starch, then returns it to the bank, to fool (and hopefully teach a lesson to) those who think the “Counterfeit Detector Pens” actually detect counterfeit bills.

    Always check the security features on the bills: Reflective/holographic ink, metallic (also UV-reactive) strip, microprinting, and red/blue fibers. A litmus pen tells you nothing about the bill other than whether or not it has come into contact with starch.

  46. shufflemoomin says:

    @Edge231: That’s the part that was confusing me. I’m not from the US but I know a little and I was under the impression Wachovia was a regular bank, as was BoA. Why would you physically withdraw money from one bank and carry it to another to deposit there. Really, am I missing something? Is this a common practice. To me it adds a shade of suspicion on the couple here.

  47. Indecent says:

    @papahoth:

    You’re assuming that the bills were new or made to look like new, which is amusing.
    And given that the Wachovia teller either didn’t notice or was in on the scheme, why is it the customer’s blame? If it was that easy to spot fakes, they wouldn’t give tellers and grocery cashiers markers to identify them.

  48. xaqdesign says:

    This doesn’t surprise me at all.
    I work at a retailer, and our specific store has our store account where we deposit each night at Wachovia that is in the mall…

    2 times in 3 months now Wachovia claims we didn’t deposit our cash TWICE… Each time there was around 1000 dollars in the deposit… The first time they ended up “finding the money loose in the depository, and credited it to the wrong account” but then said we never deposited it.

    Now it’s just happened again…except this time it’s much worse because they are disputing a deposit we made 1 month ago suddenly, and saying there was no cash. It was the store manager who has been there 10+ years and another associate who has been there 4 years who made the deposit. I seriously doubt either of them would risk their jobs over 4-500 bucks each.

    I have been there 5 years and we ALWAYS have 2 people verify our deposit amounts, and one person watches as the other places the money in and SEALS the bag and then both people go to the night deposit drop, which there are two of, but it always seems like one of them is broken, and both people are on camera as the bag is deposited.

    It’s horse sh*t and they know it. Wachovia sucks…Not as much as Comcast or BoA but they suck bigtime.

  49. dweebster says:

    @Cogito Ergo Bibo: My crummy old bank gives me a certified bank check for free. Even on a savings account.

    If your bank won’t at least do THAT for you then maybe it’s time to pay a buck or two for a money order in the amount of all your money deposited there and head to another financial institution.

  50. DoubleEcho says:

    @shufflemoomin: I’m guessing that Wachovia’s large posted loss made them a little leery about leaving money in that bank.

  51. kbarrett says:

    Part of the problem is that a counterfeit bill is like a hot potato … the person who is in possession when it is discovered is the one who gets to take the loss.

    If the teller didn’t notice the bill when he/she signed for the full amount in the till, the teller can be stuck with the loss.

    There is an incentive right there for the teller to NOT check outgoing bills, only incoming ones.

    I have the teller count the bills on the counter in front of me. On one occasion a twenty looked funny, and I demanded she count out the full amount … and pointed out the note that wasn’t real.

    She did get stuck with the loss by the manager.

  52. Ok, there’s some great advice here on how not to get stuck with funny money when withdrawing from the teller. But what do you do when get one out of an ATM? What recourse, if any, do you have? I’ve always wondered about this and what if the machine shorts you on the withdrawal (you want $100 and it only gives you $60).

  53. laddibugg says:

    @FightOnTrojans:

    The bank *should* be able to tell if the machine shorts you—there will be to much money in the machine.

  54. temporaryerror says:

    Another thing that counterfeiters do is bleach out $1 bills and reprint them as larger denom. bills.