Iowa City restaurants double down on efforts to prevent counterfeit money from circulating

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 5:28 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Some restaurants in downtown Iowa City are taking steps to stop counterfeit money.

The Iowa City Police Department was able to confirm to TV-9 that it’s had seven reports of counterfeit money in the past six months. That refers to cash, money orders and personal checks that are fake.

Several restaurants in the area confirmed to TV-9 they’ve heard about the increase in counterfeit bills.

Richard Dixon and the rest of his staff at the Vine have a policy to mark any large bill with a special pen to keep themselves and others safe from fraud.

When he heard about counterfeit $50 bills being used in downtown Iowa City, he ensured his staff knew what to watch for, and alerted other restaurants.

“I got some calls from other restaurateurs around town saying there is a prevalence of 20s, 50s, and 100s coming around. We warn each other, I mean we’re all just small businesses trying to make it,” said Dixon.

Other businesses took on preventative measures. Managers at Blackstone say they have always, and will continue, to do their part in preventing these types of crimes.

“We definitely don’t want to accept any into our establishment that are counterfeit, but then we also don’t want to bring them back into the community because we use them all the time and we get bills, we return bills, so yeah,” said Blackstone Assistant General Manager, Samara Lehner.

And while the person trying to use a counterfeit bill isn’t always at fault, these businesses say they have to keep the bill and alert law enforcement to stop fake money from circulating.

“It’s not real money so we can’t give it back to them, it’s not legal tender. And unfortunately they would be out too, so it’s just what it is,” said Dixon.

Not only are these restaurant staffers trained to use the marker, but they also know how to detect a patron who might be there to launder a counterfeit bill. Multiple managers tell me suspicious behavior can include someone using a large bill to pay for a tab that is 5 dollars or less.