HERMISTON - Local businesses are being urged to look closely at new $20 bills that come through their registers, in light of counterfeit bills discovered in town.

U.S. Bank in Hermiston reported receiving a counterfeit $20 bill Feb. 13 and alerted police.

The new $20 bill was introduced Oct. 9 and was said by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing to be "the most secure currency in U.S. history."

But in light of last week's phony bill, the Hermiston Police Department urged all local businesses to be on the lookout for counterfeits and to use a Counterfeit Bill Protector Pen from an office supply store.

Those pens make an ink mark that should stay yellow on a good bill but turn black if the bill is phony.

However, the pen is not endorsed by the United States Secret Service, the law enforcement agency in charge of counterfeiting cases.

Ron Wampole, a Secret Service agent in Portland, said the pens are not nearly accurate enough to be reliable.

"The Secret Service doesn't endorse those simply because they don't work all the time," Wampole said.

Small amounts of counterfeit money, such as in Hermiston's case, usually don't warrant Secret Service involvement, Wampole said. Counterfeiting cases that reach into the thousands take priority.

Sonia Lopez, a sales and service manager with U.S. Bank, said one of her bank tellers discovered the bill shortly after receiving it from a customer.

The person who gave the bill to the teller apparently knew nothing about the bill's origin and was not taken into custody.

"A lot of people don't know what to look out for," Lopez said.

Lopez said a good thing to look for is if the bill is crisp, especially on a new $20. Also, Jackson's coat on the new bill should have tiny grooves in it to the touch.

The Hermiston Chamber of Commerce has issued warnings to all member stores in the area. But Wampole noted that once fake money passes out of a counterfeiter's hands, it is nearly impossible to track it back to who made it.

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