WASHINGTON — At first glance, the $100 bills looked real. By the third glance, they were clearly worthless.
A Maryland college student has learned an expensive lesson about the ease in which criminals can scam unsuspecting victims using fake “movie money,” which is used in motion picture shoots.
Hannah Buehrle, of Frederick, told NBC Washington she wanted to sell her iPhone 6 to help pay for a Memorial Day weekend trip to the beach.
On May 15, she advertised the phone on the Letgo app.
A man who identified himself as Xavier agreed to buy the phone for $450.
According to Montgomery County Police, Xavier told the victim he only had five $100 bills, and would give her the $500 if she would give him $50 in return.
The two agreed to meet in a Kohl’s parking lot in Germantown.
Xavier gave Buehrle five hundreds in a bank envelope; she gave him the iPhone 6 and $50.
After the transaction, when Buehrle tried to deposit the $100 bills in her ATM, nothing happened.
“I looked at the bottom of one of the bills — it said ‘for prop use only,’” she told NBC Washington.
Several companies make realistic-looking currency for use in movies.
Propmoviemoney.com’s web page specifies that prop money is for photographic use only. It is a federal offense to use prop money to make a purchase.
Real currency in the U.S. contains linen, making it feel different from prop money, which is made of paper.
Authentic $100 bills have the words “federal reserve note,” while prop money reads “For motion picture use only.”
Police officer Rick Goodale suggests consumers take precautions when meeting with online sellers.
“If you’re going to do an online transaction, bring somebody with you, and ideally, meet at one of our exchange zones, at the police station,” Goodale told NBC Washington.
Montgomery County Police said the suspect is described as a tall and thin African American teenager, around 15 or 16 years old. Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at 240-773-6237.
To report a tip anonymously and be eligible for a reward of up to $10,000, call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County at 866-411-TIPS (8477).