By Eugene Kane Senior Writer and Columnist Published Feb 26, 2013 at 1:05 PM Photography:
I had been carrying the $10 bill around for a week or so.

Faded and wrinkled, it didn't fit in with the fresher, newer bills in my wallet. It was more like an old sock in the laundry or some other mis-matched piece of clothing.

I did notice the bill wasn't getting  accepted by the electronic cashiers at the grocery market. It was also rejected when I attempted to pay for parking and a car wash.

I figured it was the frayed texture of the bill, along with President Hamilton's gaze just a bit askew. It happens with money sometimes.

So imagine my surprise when the waitress at one of my favorite soul food places in town came back after I finished paying for lunch.

"They got you!"

She told me the bill was counterfeit, she spotted it almost immediately.

"Yeah, I could see it. They've been passing them around."

The teller at my bank confirmed the bill was bogus; she then told me that she had to confiscate it, although I did receive credit in my checking account. I made a call to the Milwaukee branch of the Secret Service to get the lowdown on any existing investigations into bad bills being passed in Milwaukee.

According to the Secret Service spokesman, any investigations into counterfeit money in town were,  well, a secret and can't be discussed without clearance from officials in Washington D.C.

But consumers can learn more about how to spot a fake bill by going to the  Secret Service website, "Know Your Money."

Or, you could ask anybody who handles money frequently. A friend who works at a local bar told me that the she has run into some poorly duplicated fake $5 and $10 bills in recent months. "They think it's easier to pass the smaller bills," she said.

Recent news reports about fake money in Milwaukee have alerted many businesses to the practice. Four Milwaukee men were indicted this month for selling about $25,000 of counterfeit money throughout southeastern Wisconsin. The men were indicted on two counts of possessing, selling and passing fake $100 bills, which if convicted could land them up to 20 years in prison.

In Milwaukee's central city, where much of the business is done in cash, some vendors and bartenders have gotten pretty good at spotting fake bills. Sometimes it's in the look or touch, but the most savvy ones have their own money scanners. The "pen test" and even holding bills up to the light to search for the correct hologram aren't fool-proof.

I had never knowingly possessed a counterfeit bill so part of me wanted to keep my fake bill as a remembrance. But I understand why the law requires this funny money to be confiscated as soon as someone spots a phony.

Got to keep this trash out of circulation, right?

 The idea of criminals working in seclusion as they churn out fake bills is suddenly a real scenario for me as opposed to just a scene from a Hollywood movie. I still can't figure out where I could have picked up a bogus $10 in my travels across Milwaukee but it ended up an interesting story to tell friends.

But be aware; the counterfeiters are out there. Thankfully, so is the Secret Service.

Eugene Kane Senior Writer and Columnist

Eugene Kane is veteran Milwaukee journalist and nationally award winning columnist.

Kane writes about a variety of important issues in Milwaukee and society that impact residents of all backgrounds.