Counterfeit money found in Salvation Army kettles

(Courtesy: WLUK)

MENASHA, Wis. (WLUK) -- Counterfeit money is showing up in places many of us would least expect: the Salvation Army’s Red Kettles.

The Fox Cities Salvation Army, which serves Appleton, Wis. and surrounding areas, found at least $200 in fake money, and the holiday season might be revealing even more bogus bills.

With the Fox Cities Salvation Army already falling short of its $1.2 million goal this year, getting "Grinched" with fake bills is the last thing they needed.

“We found more counterfeit money than we have in the past, and there were some hundred dollar bills that look very real, and I passed them onto the bank myself not noticing that they were not of value,” said Maj. David Minks of the Fox Cities Salvation Army.

The bill, with what looks like Chinese symbols on it, even fooled a counterfeit bill detector.

“What worried me the most is that, because I received it as real that other people might do just the same,” Minks said. “So many folks are so hurting to make ends meet that they might take the currency as real and then, of course, be in dire straits.”

Counterfeit bills aren’t the only things the Salvation Army finds in its kettles.

From house keys to rings, gold coins to other gold items, the Salvation Army has seen it all.

“I pulled out something that was shiny and gold, and it turned out to be someone’s tooth, and that really surprised me!” Minks said.

And while it may never be known if whoever made those donations knew the money was fake and intentionally dropped it in, the Salvation Army staff likes to give people the benefit of the doubt.

“I don’t think it was intentional,” Fox Cities Salvation Army director of development Kristal Knudtson said. “Maybe it was a $100 bill that was in my pocket from somebody else that was counterfeit, and I thought I was being truly genuine, taking that $100 and putting in the kettle and now it couldn’t be used.”

As it turns out, getting a hold of one of those fake bills is a lot easier than you may think and is actually just a click away.

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, about $70 million in counterfeit bills are in circulation. That's fewer than one in 10,000.

The Appleton Police Department said that number might increase during the holidays.

“You do see maybe more of an increase in certain areas, because of the amount of people, and the amount of busy shopping days that maybe people are hoping they’re not going to be as mindful than they would be on a normal day,” public information officer Meghan Cash said.

If you suspect a bill might be fraudulent, officials say you should contact local law enforcement or the United States Secret Service.

Information on how to spot a fake bill from a real one, can also be found here.