Counterfeit bills are flying around Charlotte, but the Secret Service said many of the people passing them don't even realizing they're doing it.
The problem is so pervasive that the Secret Service is handing out warning fliers to businesses all over the city. Thousands of dollars in counterfeit money were passed last month.
“It was over $120,000 in counterfeit passed,” said Glen Kessler with the U.S. Secret Service.
Kessler said more than that has already shown up in December. The bills are passed at malls, convenience stores and businesses in every part of Charlotte, he said.
“The counterfeiters are out in force,” Kessler said.
Joseph Belay said he gets bogus $5 bills and $20 bills several times a week at his convenience store on Freedom Drive.
“We lose. We end up biting the bullet, unfortunately,” Belay said.
Consumers can lose, as well. Any bills that businesses don't catch can be inadvertently passed on to customers as change. At concerts and big sporting events, some people selling extra tickets have reported getting paid with counterfeit money.
Police in Charlotte said their counterfeit cases have skyrocketed, too. There were 20 between August and December 2009, and more than 100 in the same time frame this year.
The Secret Service said you should check any bills you get that are $20 or more. There are three things to look for: There should be a colored security thread on the left side of the bill, a watermark that matches the president's face on the bill on the right side and a denomination number in the lower right corner that changes color when the bill is turned.
For more information from the Secret Service on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of counterfeit bills, click here.