Consumers and businesses should expect to see more bogus bills this time of year, said Jeffrey Gilbert, special agent in charge of the United States Secret Service Atlanta field office.

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ATLANTA — Along with festive lights, mall Santas and Christmas tree lots, counterfeit money is becoming a hallmark of the holiday season.

Consumers and businesses should expect to see more bogus bills this time of year, said Jeffrey Gilbert, special agent in charge of the United States Secret Service Atlanta field office.

“We cannot reiterate enough how important it is to look at your money,” said Gilbert. “Counterfeiting is a crime of opportunity. And it can be devastating on a business, a family, even our economy.”

With the advancements in color copiers, counterfeiters are getting more creative. By bleaching the notes of $5 bills they are able to reprint them as $100 bills. These bills, printed on official U.S. Treasury paper, are passing the counterfeit pen test.

Here are some clues:

• On a genuine bill, the portrait stands out from the background. The counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat.

• On a genuine bill, the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct and sharp.

• On a genuine bill, the borders are clear and unbroken. On the counterfeit, the lines may be blurred and indistinct.

• On a genuine bill, the currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. On the counterfeit note the lines are printed on the surface, not embedded in the paper.

As one of the oldest crimes in American history, counterfeiting is not more rampant in one part of town or specific to one ethnic group, Gilbert said.

“Whenever you have an economic system that is the largest in the world and people are losing jobs there will be attempts to try and replicate our currency,” Gilbert said.

Counterfeiting is a $600 billion-a-year problem, according to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition.