STORES and shoppers have been warned to be on their guard after an influx of counterfeit cash in east Durham.
Detectives have received reports of a number of instances over recent weeks when counterfeit £20 notes have been passed as genuine currency.
Businesses in Peterlee and Shotton Colliery have been targeted, and police have so far arrested three men, who have been bailed pending further inquiries. They also seized money which has been sent off for analysis.
Officers say although these instances are rare, businesses and members of the public are advised to be vigilant.
Detective Constable Barry Johnson, of Peterlee CID, said: “We would advise people not to rely on just one security feature if they are passed a suspect note.
“It can often be helpful to check the note against one that is known to be genuine – the difference will be obvious.
“If anyone comes into possession of counterfeit notes they should contact the police and note details of the description of the person involved and any car they may be using.
“Likewise, if anyone has information about persons passing counterfeit notes or coins or involved in making them we would urge them to contact us.”
Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Kelly Taylor is among officers working to alert businesses to the issue as she and her colleagues work on plans to launch a Shopwatch scheme on her beat in Peterlee town centre.
She said: “We’re going to be dropping in leaflets and pens as we’re going around to encourage them to join Shopwatch.
“We’ll be asking people to keep an eye out and make sure the shopkeepers are better informed so they are aware of what to look out for.”
Incidents involving counterfeit notes in County Durham can be reported to Durham Constabulary on 0345 6060365, while information can also be passed on anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.