Man warns others after receiving phony bills during yard sale

SAN ANTONIO – Joe Pavon is warning others after he and his neighbors fell victim to a so-called customer using fake bills at a yard sale.

The incident happened a couple of weeks ago, Pavon said, as he watched a video of the woman waiting for him and his wife to get really busy before she paid.

“As soon as we got really busy, (she) came out and stated, ‘I don’t have change. Can you break a $50?’ My wife, being the trusting person she is, said, ‘Sure, we’ll break a $50 for you,’” he said.

The woman with a child drove off to other neighborhood yard sales, where she handed out more fake bills, according to a San Antonio police report.

“There were two other people in the vehicle that I didn’t see, but they were also going around the neighborhood doing this, as well,” Pavon said.

The woman was in a black Honda CRV.  

Tracy Steed, special agent for the U.S. Secret Service, said anyone selling anything can be a victim of this crime. He said it’s usually people selling high-priced items on social media.

“What they'll do is they'll meet up somewhere in a parking lot. The suspects will give them the money, take the item and, you know, take off pretty quickly. And then, by the time they realize it, (they find out) it's counterfeit money,” Steed said.

About $1 million in counterfeit money is passed around in San Antonio each year, according to the U.S. Secret Service San Antonio office, which investigates phony cash.

Steed urges people to look closely at the bills they are handed during a transaction and look for the watermark and the color shifting on the bottom right corner of the newer bills that are of the $10 denomination and up.

More of the fake bills passed at the yard sale, Steed said, were also circulated in Boloxi, Mississippi, Houston, San Antonio and Universal City.

Lately, prop money used for motion pictures or Chinese notes has been popular with crooks, as it can easily be purchased online. The federal government shuts down the printing companies, but new ones pop up, Steed said.

He urges people to pay close attention when they get paid. 

“Look at the bills closely when you get them … Meet at a police parking lot, meet at a bank, to verify the bills,” Steed said.

With a table full of fakes made to look real, he said crooks use a lot of tricks to pass the fakes as real, so be on the lookout.

Pabon captured the woman on home security video. Steed said video evidence can be used to connect the suspect with other cases if she’s ever arrested passing fake bills.

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