8 On Your Side Warning: Fake money being passed in Polk County

Polk County Sheriff's Office photo

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is warning residents about fake cash circulating in the county. People are being ripped off. Judd says there have been 18 recent incidents involving counterfeit cash being passed for the real thing.

Sheriff Judd says people who sell things privately need to be aware, as a number of sellers have been scammed recently. Most of the victims had posted items for sale online.

“Buyers and sellers need to be aware with whom they are conducting money transactions, whether the cash is real or fake, and whether the transaction is real or fake,” said Sheriff Judd.

Investigators say on March 11, a sale was made in the parking lot of a RaceTrac gas station in Polk County for an Apple Watch which was posted on the OfferUp website.

The victim said a person named “Dylan” gave her $260 for the watch. The victim later found out that Dylan had given her counterfeit money; two fake $100 bills and three fake $20 bills. Dylan is described as a white male, 5’-10”, 280 pounds with medium length blond hair. The victim said he drove away in a new Silver Nissan Altima.

Investigators say on March 13, a victim sold an Xbox on Craigslist and met the purchaser at a RaceTrac gas station. A man who identified himself as “Jason Miller” gave the victim two fake $100 bills and two $50 bills. Investigators say the $100 bills had the same serial number as in the previous incident involving the Apple Watch. The victim realized the currency was fake when he attempted to get fuel. The victim said that “Jason” was a black male, about 26 years old, he was 6’-01” and had braided hair.

On March 15, investigators say a similar sale for a pair of 12” Kicker speakers was completed using the Offerup website. This time, the buyer who identified himself as Malcolm Porter responded to the victim’s residence to complete the transaction. A man named “Malcolm” paid for the speakers with six counterfeit $20 bills. Malcolm was described as being in his late 20s, and was 5’-11” to 6’-01” tall, weighed 260 to 300 pounds and had dreadlocks. Malcolm arrived in a late 90s white Ford F-150.

James Fabrizio thought the man was legitimate. “He didn’t seem like a bad guy, that’s why I didn’t think anything,” he told News Channel 8 of the botched speaker sale. “We even loaded the stuff in the back of his truck. I was really upset when I realized.” Fabrizio had been scammed out of $120. “Once the guy left, I actually got the money, and realized it was photo copied. All the money had the same serial number, and there was this pen too,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I just got robbed, I didn’t think it would happen to me.” He immediately reporter the incident to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

If you plan to sell anything online, the sheriff’s office says you need to be observant when it comes to money. Most people may not take the time to look at the money being exchanged, but PCSO detectives are encouraging you to take a moment and look at the bills.

How to check for fake money

  • Note the paper texture, where the portrait image is located on the bill, and if the ink color on the front is different from the back.
  • Use a counterfeit identification pen, to make sure the bill is authentic.
  • Meet at a financial institution and request a money order.

Tips for safe selling

  • Always take someone with you if you’re meeting a stranger for a transaction
  • Arrange to meet in highly populated and well-lit areas
  • Request or provide a bill of sale
  • Request photo identification for the bill of sale
  • Never provide financial information
  • If the other person makes you feel uncomfortable, decline the sale and walk away
  • Alert law enforcement to any suspicious activity

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