NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Counterfeit cash is circulating through the Tri-State Area with hundred-dollar bills so realistic they can pass as the real thing. In fact, you may have some and not even know it.

The criminals are banking on the fake Benjamins created in New York City and cashed in at malls in Connecticut and New Jersey.

“They use a $1 bill and they chemically treat it and they take all the ink off of it. So this is just a white sheet of paper now,” Stamford Police Captain Richard Conklin told CBS2’s Jessica Schneider.

The genuine paper makes it possible for the bills to pass the pen test at most stores. They take the whitwashed paper and reprint it as a $100 bill.

The face of the bills are pressed on with high-tech printers.

But Stamford police busted one 18-year-old when she tried to use several fake $100 bills inside the Stamford Town Center.

“We encountered this in a drug raid several months ago. We saw bills in the process of being stripped. But this is the first time we’ve made an arrest on it,” Conklin said.

At first glance, the fake $100 bills look and feel like the real thing, but the employees became suspicious when they noticed printer marks.

“The ink of the bill was kind of smushed and at some parts, it had too much ink on it. And it just looked funny — way too funny for it to be a real bill,” Zumiez store employee Pamela Galdamez said.

Police say this type of counterfeiting is online possible on hundreds pre-1996. After that, the U.S. Treasury began using security bands and water marks.

Police are now asking people to be on alert for bills showing the 1990s years.

“There’s really not that many of them left in circulation so if you get them, I would be careful. I would ask someone if they have something smaller or a different bill,” Conklin said.

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