September 24, 2022

CT Watchdog: Beware Counterfeit $100 Bills

Most of us would gladly accept $100 bills, especially from banks.  Sasha Suto of Glastonbury is not sure after her experience with Bank of America’s West Hartford branch.

Suto went to the nation’s largest – and frequently criticized bank – on Jan. 31 to cash a $900 check that had been made out on a Bank of America account.  She received 9 $100 bills and promptly took them to her credit union, Franklin Trust, also in West Hartford, where she attempted to deposit them.

The clerk checked all 9 bills with a special pencil and found that when she drew a line across one of the bills it turned dark instead of yellow, a sign that its counterfeit.

The clerk refused to deposit the bill and suggested to Suto that she take it back to the Bank of America branch.

At Bank of America a clerk ran her pencil over the bill and also found that it turned dark. The manager told Suto that she would have to confiscate the money and turn it over to the Secret Service – as federal law requires. The clerk who told Suto to take the check to Bank of America was reprimanded.

That was fine, Suto said, “but can I have another $100 bill since I got the bill from there in the first place 15 minutes earlier?”

Absolutely not, Suto was told, since the bank had no way of knowing that Suto didn’t slip another bill in her pile.

That is when Suto contacted me and I contacted Bank of America, which claimed that it thoroughly checks all $100 bills and there is no way Suto could have gotten a counterfeit bill from them.

At that point I didn’t know who to believe. While normally banks don’t pass out fake bills, it does happen, as Chase was caught red handed last year trying to falsely blame a customer for a bad $100 bill.

So I figured I would test Suto and asked her to file a written complaint against Bank of America with the West Hartford police. If she did that I was going to assume that she was either a complete idiot or on the level.

Suto did file a written complaint and West Hartford police – who had not been told about the counterfeit bill from the bank – started their own investigation. At that point I was comfortable that Suto was telling the truth.

West Hartford Police Chief James Strillacci was not sure. He said that his department was investigating a rash of fake $100 bills being passed in West Hartford.

He said that on Jan. 30 a bad check was passed at a gas station and $900 in bogus bills were passed at Price Rite. Another case had also just came in. 

The tale does have a happy ending. Suto was called by Bank of America last week and was told that the Secret Service determined that the bill was legitimate, it just had some kind of coating on it.

She went back to the bank, refused a $100 bill and instead walked out with five $20 bills.

Suto says she doesn’t blame Bank of America, but she hopes the bank does not pass the $100 bill off again on someone else who will also have a problem with it.

Bank of America said its policy is not to inform local authorities when a counterfeit bill is received and only contacts the Secret Service, which she assumes contacts local police. I suggested that the policy be changed.

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