Counterfeit money can find good sales

Dear Readers: Despite great efforts to deter it, counterfeit money is still out there. And the surprising places it’s showing up? The family garage, yard or tag sale, and at meetups arranged through online purchases.

At a garage sale, the person with the bad bill will wait until the seller is very busy. Then he or she will ask the seller to make change. The seller gives the person two good $20 bills and a $10, and is left with a phony $50.

Be sure to study the bill given to you closely. Look for the security features built into it: The color-shifting ink on the bottom right corner, and the watermark.

For online sales, meet the purchaser either at a police substation or at a bank — anywhere that has lots of cameras, and where you can verify the authenticity of the bill. — Heloise

Catfish caution

Dear Heloise: Please warn your readers about the online practice of “catfishing.” The victim is seduced by a glossy, too-good-to-be-true dating profile and biography, and a stunning picture of someone (maybe a model), not the perpetrator.

A relationship is established, with promises of a lavish lifestyle and gifts. Then calamity strikes. The catfish claims some dire circumstance where she or he is in need of a large sum of money. Don’t buy it.

The Federal Trade Commission has some hints to help:

≤ Never send money electronically (wire transfer) to, or load money on a cash card for, someone you don’t know.

≤ The catfish will inspire a sense of urgency — he or she wants you to rush out and get money. Slow down.

≤ Contact the dating site and the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint.

I hope these hints help your readers avoid this common online fraud. I wish I had known about them sooner. — Robert in Chicago

(Heloise is a columnist for King Features Syndicate. Send money-or time-saving hint to P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or E-Mail: Heloise@Heloise.com.)

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