LAS VEGAS -- Desperate times means more people will turn to dishonesty this holiday season. Federal investigators expect attempts to use counterfeit money will increase by at least 25 percent.
With local businesses struggling to meet their bottom line, accepting phoney cash is a costly mistake.
Las Vegas is a huge target for counterfeiters. With casinos, stores, restaurants and souvenir stands, there are countless targets for thieves. And business owners are suffering the brunt of the problem because once they accept fake cash, they are stuck with it.
When it comes to customers that want a tattoo, Justin Braido at Starborn Tattoo says it varies. He handles a lot of cash, and some is counterfeit.
"people are ruthless. They don't care about you," he said.
A customer recently paid with a fake $100 bill. The bogus note is now displayed in a skull bone as a reminder of money the business has to bite.
"If you're out $100, that's $100 worth of product you can't have or that's $100 that could go to an employee that you can't pay them," he said.
Angie Hurt knows her souvenir shop is a hot spot, so she trains her cashiers to look for correct color and placement of the markings.
"They have to use their eyes -- they have to look, they have to touch, they have to feel and basically look the whole thing over. If it takes an extra two minutes, it takes an extra two minutes," she said.
Secret Service Agent Richard Shields says $40,000 to $80,000 in fake cash is turned in each week in Las Vegas, and it is a lot harder to spot because thieves are getting smarter. A busy cashier is a criminals prime target.
Because of all the bogus money out there, many businesses do not accept bills bigger than $20. But merchants say counterfeit cash comes in all denominations.