Chase Tries To Pass Fake Money Back To Customer

A guy withdrew some hundreds from his credit union to pay his roommate his portion of the rent. The roommate deposited them at Chase, which later discovered that one of the hundreds was actually a $5 altered to look like a $100.

Normally the rule with counterfeit money is that whoever gets stuck with it last is the one who gets screwed, but Chase later deducted $100 from the roommate’s bank account. When he complained, they tried to play it off like they hadn’t put the bill in the drawer, so it wasn’t fully processed, so it wasn’t their responsibility. After consumer reporter David Lazarus started asking questions, they ended up crediting the roommate back the money.

It sounds counterintuitive, why should the bank have to eat the charge if someone deposits fake money?

Because by effectively passing the phony buck back to the customer, Chase was essentially conducting a transaction with the fake bill. After they took possession of the bill and he left the bank, it was on them.

LAT writes, “Counterfeit money is like a hot potato. Whoever ends up with it last is the victim.”

Bank tries to pass the (fake) buck back to customer [LAT] (Thanks to Robert!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. komodork says:

    …and thats why you should have colored money

    • humphrmi says:

      I make my own colored money at home.

    • Marlin says:

      And what would that do?

      Not sure if its the case here but you just bleach the money back to white and then print the new money on it. So it will pass the ink test, touch test, and even have the security strips in it.

      • Michaela says:

        Have you ever seen Australian bill? They have many colors and the country does not have some massive counterfeiting issue.

        • trey says:

          that could be due to the fact that your money is not the international standard and it isn’t worth as much as american money.

          • Promethean Sky says:

            Australian money is inherently more difficult to counterfeit due to different materials and security precautions.

          • Michaela says:

            Yeah….no. America is just very far behind most other industrialized nations in currency protection. My high school macroecon teacher said that it was because the image of the dollar is so well known and regarded that it is difficult to make drastic changes (though the bill has begun to have color the past decade).

            Also, I am not Australian (my Dad is though).

      • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

        security strips for different denominations are placed in different places. the $20 strip is near the end, the strip for $50s and $100s are closer to the middle.

    • Platypi {Redacted} says:

      I don’t know, that sounds kind of insensitive and racist to me.

    • corrie06 says:

      Green is a color. :P

    • JoJack82 says:

      We have multiple different colours in Canada but I got a fake $10 the other day. Its bright purple. It didn’t have the metallic stripe but I didn’t notice until the store owner noticed when I tried to spend it. That was embarrassing.

      • Crovie says:

        Older $5s and $10s don’t have the metallic stripe. Originally they were only going to use all the security features for $20 and up, then they went back and put them on the $5s and $10s.

        • Crovie says:

          Oh, and I forgot to mention that the ‘old’ $5s and $10s are a different shade of blue and purple than the new ones. Sadly a lot of people are ignorant about that currency in Canada, I’m not too surprised a store owner would be unaware of that.

    • ames says:

      I like our green money.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      I totally agree – but I’d also go a step farther and say both different colors and different sizes for different demoninations.

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      The color of money wouldn’t really help here. And the $5 is a colored bill. Check out the pinkish flush around the middle of the bill and the big purple 5 on back.

      The scam as I’ve seen it is that the bill is bleached and the other denomination printed on top. So the money feels like a real bill. The other counterfeit measures are still intact however. So even though the paper is genuine, there is still the watermark and the denomination fiber that can be seen by machine or hand checking.

      The back just didn’t realise/check until the customer left.

    • Pax says:

      Actually, the trick I learned as a cashier in a department store (nearly twenty-five years ago, now) was to always look at the BACK SIDE of the bill. There’s a lot more difference there, than there is on the front (one of the reasons the newer versions have enlarged portraits).

      If someone has done the “corner clipping” trick – take four $20 and one $1, clip the one corner off of each $20 to replace each corresponding corner of the $1 – on the face side, you generally look at the number, and that’s it. But on the back, the $1 bill has this big, glorious “ONE” printed on it. It’s unmistakable.

      In the case of this article, the Cashier is totally at fault. S/He should be the one trained to recognise counterfeits, while handling the bills.

    • xredgambit says:

      But no one lost an arm during the transaction.

      but always leave a note.

  2. lawnmowerdeth says:

    That’s why all of my counterfeit bills end up in the church collection plate.

    (thank George Carlin for that one)

  3. Megalomania says:

    It’s far more common that this happens the other way around and the customer who got phony money from a bank is left with it, so at least it plays out just as counter intuitively in this case for the little guy’s benefit.

  4. apple420 says:

    I’m glad to hear that Chase credited the account. When I worked as a cashier for a couple years I was always on the lookout for counterfeit money, but never found any.

  5. full.tang.halo says:

    I’d like to see the $5 that was turned into a $100. Most counterfeit money is easy to detect just by the feel of the bill, if you handle any decent volume of money you’ll feel it straight away. I’ve never seen a “washed” bill where they change the denomination. But again, with 100’s you’ve got many things you can look at quickly and discreetly to have a good idea it’s real. Only way I can see it being much harder if it was a pre-97 $100. I had a person double pen test a 90’s series $10 cause the person was young they’d never seen “such an old bill” and it “looked fake” to them.

    • Why is this on Consumerist? says:

      I’ve seen and handled a $100 that was made from a $5 before. It looks very real until you hold it up to the light or look at it extremely closely. The average person couldn’t tell the difference, but a competent bank teller *should* be able to.

      • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

        I got stuck with one once. I don’t take payments in cash anymore. $100 is a costly lesson. But if it’s a washed $5 bill, shouldn’t I at least get $5 for it?

      • Coalpepper says:

        Even a decent cashier should be able to, hold the bill to the light, and look for the strip, it tells you what type of bill it is, so in this case, it’d say five even though the print says $100, and the rule of thumb is if something seems wrong, decline it.

    • shotgun_shenanigans says:

      At the gas station I worked at we had a little blacklight thing we’d put the bills under. We were required to do it with anything bigger than a 20. The security strips in bills glow different colors and they’re set at different places, so finding a washed-out 5 would have been trivial.

      Of course, our problem wasn’t so much counterfeit money as bad checks, but that’s another story entirely.

    • Gandalf the Grey says:

      I remember when I lived back in Michigan ’97 , one of the local radio DJs was arrested for attempting to use a new $100 bill in a store, the clerk and the cop thought he was trying to pass off a bad fake!

  6. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    It would seem the criminals keep on winning. Nothing is safe.

  7. Jesse says:

    If they knew who the customer was, I’m surprised Chase didn’t call the police on him.

    • NYGuy1976 says:

      Banks do not call police over a fake bill. They take possession of it( they are not allowed to give it back to you) and send it the secret service. Sometimes suspect bills that look fake come back as genuine.

  8. ztoop says:

    Shouldn’t they have deducted $95? It should at least retain 5 dollars in value.

    • Pax says:


      Paper currency is not he property of the bearer, it is still the property of the Government.

      And counterfeit or altered bills, like in this case? The government wants it back. Right now. Not to mention, they lose all value immediately.

  9. tedyc03 says:

    Here’s what I don’t get: Chase is going to send the bill back to the Federal reserve (since they don’t really hold cash) and it’ll get processed out. The only person who loses here is the Federal government. Why would Chase pull this shit?

  10. mobiuschic42 says:

    Ben – why did you link the unformatted “print” version rather than the link right at the top of that ugly version?,0,2211928.column

    • DanRydell says:

      I’ve noticed that happens occasionally here, and it’s pretty annoying. “Print” pages usually have some javascript that tell your browser to print the page, so the print dialog will open for no apparent reason.

      • NaOH says:

        I haven’t had that problem, and am way happier reading the “print” version than the bloated main page with all the images and ads and other crap.

    • midwestkel says:

      Because the entire story is on one page and there are way less ads.

      • DanRydell says:

        Oh, so Consumerist wants to take advantage of another website’s work but wants to deprive that site of the ability to profit off their work through advertising? That’s shameless.

        • Conformist138 says:

          If the website has two versions of one article, and one is easier to read than another, then why not link to the simpler version? It’s not my job, your job, nor Consumerist’s job to determine profitability of their website. Consumerist does not exist to maximize revenues for companies, including media outlets. Nothing to stop print-versions from having text-based ads to one side; that site is responsible for their own finances.

  11. dolemite says:

    Wow, that’s pretty scummy. They know the last person with the bill is the “loser”. They were just counting on him not knowing this and going “oh, ok…sucks to be me then I guess.”

  12. qbubbles says:

    I worked as a cashier at Harris Teeter in college and some chick passed me a photocopied twenty. The light was dim, but I did notice it wasnt a real bill. It was awkward, but I tried to be nice about it. She honestly looked tired and probably hadnt gotten much sleep since it was around the same time as finals.

    It probably wasnt her intention to pass me a fake bill, but I showed it to her and said, “Uhh… yeah, I’m sorry, but this isnt a twenty.”
    “What? Its not?”
    “Nope… its a photocopy.”
    “Are you serious?!”
    “Ugh. Ok. I’m sorry. Can I pay with a card?”
    “Sure thing.”

    Poor chick. But at least it wasnt a fake $100.

  13. PanCake BuTT says:

    Just say NO to booBoo money !

  14. coren says:

    Man, I’d probably be filing a police report at that point. It’s not like I can conclusively prove that I got the bill from my roommate, who got it from their credit union, so I’m stuck dealing with Chase. And since they can make my bank account say whatever they want, it seems like I’d want some backup.

  15. satoru says:

    It’s somewhat amusing the differences in how tellers work in different countries. My wife worked as a teller at HSBC in Hong Kong. One day a co-worker was short $20hkd which is less then $3 usd. They spent the next 5 HOURS searching the till and combing through all the video surveillance to find out where that money went. Everyone had to stay in the bank until they found out where the $20 was.

    By contrast, she then worked at a Citizen’s Bank. A teller was short $10usd and they just ‘wrote it off’ and went home.

    I did ask her about counterfeit bills, but she indicated that at HSBC they were more problems with bad checks than fake bills.

  16. Promethean Sky says:

    The way we make currency here in the US is a joke. Yes, adding colors to the our various bills is good from both an identification standpoint, and anti-counterfeiting standpoint, but it’s not the ideal solution. I love what they’re doing with folding money in Australia. It’s made out of plastic, so it lasts longer, the ink is embedded in the plastic, so washing isn’t really possible, and there’s a clear window in the bill as an anti-counterfeiting measure.

    And don’t even get me started on $1 bills vs. $1 coins.

    • NYGuy1976 says:

      Regardless how any country uses anti counterfeiting technology to make their bills there will always be someone smart and determined enough to make a very very close copy.

  17. Crim Law Geek says:

    US currency isn’t exactly made on a LaserJet, so adding color to it would be far from trivial. It would require the purchase of additional printers (for each color), multiple plates (which wear out regularly), far more stringent quality control (to makes sure the color plates were properly aligned), far more spoiled bills (since plates often don’t line up), more ink, etc.

    These costs have to be multiplied by the number of mints (the US prints bills is several different places), as well as by the amount of bills actually printed (I believe the US prints more bills than any other country—remember, the greenback is used in pretty much every country, and is the official currency of more than just the U.S.).

    All of this, for very little deterrent value, since colorized bills get forged all the time too.

    • Crim Law Geek says:

      Additionally, since there is _sooo_ much U.S. currency out there, it is impossible to recall it all. Therefore, a counterfeiter would simply counterfeit good ol’ fashion greenbacks if the U.S. ever colorizes its money.

      • TheUncleBob says:


        It doesn’t matter too much what the government does to prevent counterfeiting – as long as I can whip up some realistic-looking, worn $100’s from 1979, I’m good to go.

  18. Nyall says:

    Wow, I guess that is another plus for using a credit card.

  19. TheWillow says:

    wasn’t this the plot of this week’s Castle?

  20. Wireless Joe says:

    That’s why different bill denominations should be different sizes, with higher value bills being larger so you can’t “trim” a small bill to the size of a larger one. Leave the dollar the same size, as it’s the one that’s most used in vending machines, etc. Increment each larger bill an eighth of an inch or something; enough to be obvious but not so much that the hundred looks like giant old British money.

  21. Conformist138 says:

    Not one single comment about the fact that the credit union passed this to a customer in the first place? Chase was scum for what they did trying to pull that stunt, but that credit union should be doing a more careful inspection of their benjamins. Special pens can detect if the whole thing is fake as well as holding up to a light to check the watermarks. Feeling can detect if bits of one bill have been snipped and added to another. Bad, credit union, bad. That said, I’ll take them over chase any day.

  22. sayahh says:

    I’ve successfully counterfeited a $100 bill into a $1 bill. However, I have yet to get any offers for my fake one dollar bills.

  23. BHall says:

    “why should the bank have to eat the charge if someone deposits fake money?”

    I would like to think that it is on the bank to check for counterfeit when they accept the cash, kind of like how it is on a store to check the return so that the next customer doesn’t end up with patio bricks instead of the expected TV.

    They are the experts; how bad would it be for you to get counterfeit cash from the ATM?