Be aware: Prop money is circulating locally

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This prop money, a $20 bill, and others like it is unknowingly being passed as real currency in Anza. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

Prop money – fake bills used in the motion picture industry and readily available – has been used as currency in Anza in recent weeks.

One local business reported the use of a $20 bill that was actually well-marked as prop money. The person attempting to pass the bill was unaware it was not a real bill and no police report was made.

Additionally, a resident may have allegedly unknowingly accepted a couple of thousand dollars in prop money as payment for an item offered for sale.

The make-believe money has Anza residents asking exactly what prop money is and how to spot it.

The prop money, a $20 bill, is clearly marked “Motion Picture Purposes,” yet the marking is often missed by consumers. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo
This prop money, a $20 bill, offers several sensory cues that it is not real legal tender. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

The faux dollar bills are designed to fool the movie camera, but by law they are specially marked to prevent use as real currency. Prop money is legal to purchase and use for its intended purpose; however, it is literally play money.

Prop money is not intended to be passed as counterfeit. It is produced under strict rules for the movie industry, to be used as cash in motion pictures and TV shows.

According to Prop Movie Money LLC, the production of the pretend money is carefully regulated. The bills must have certain markings to be legal as prop money.

The company cannot remove the “This is not for legal tender” text, or the round “For motion picture use only” emblems. Though for a fee, they can redesign the bills to include a company’s name or customize the text as long as it stays within the legal limits.

PMM focuses on keeping their products as legal as possible. The bills are printed on quality printing paper that does not feel like real currency. This money is simply a visual cue and is only meant to be used on camera. There is no need for the props to feel real.

The bills are marked with certain distinguishing phrases that show at an instant they are not real currency. But most people passing bills to pay for goods and services can easily overlook these markings. Prop money is not intentionally created to be used by criminals or otherwise.

The pretend bills can be purchased from reputable companies online and even on eBay; however, it is not supposed to be passed as legal tender and using it as such is illegal.

The use of counterfeit bills violates both federal and state laws. Under federal law, the use of counterfeit currency is illegal if the user has the intent to defraud the recipient of the money. If convicted of the offense, the punishment carries up to 20 years in prison plus a fine. A conviction for printing counterfeit money also carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment as well as a fine. Possessing counterfeit currency is against the law as well.

States can also punish those who knowingly use counterfeit currency. A person suspected of passing fake bills may be charged with one or more crimes, including fraud, forgery or other theft-related offenses. To convict a person of these crimes, the prosecutor must prove in court that the defendant acted with criminal intent.

Prop money is make-believe money. Residents are encouraged to be careful when accepting cash and look for the markings and different feel of the paper. Those are good indicators that will separate the fakes from the real dough.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.