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Computers help tech-savvy counterfeiters cash in

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The popularity and affordability of home computers have revolutionized one of the nation's oldest crimes: counterfeiting.

Thanks to advances in digital copying technology, desktop computers and color printers now produce about 97% of today's fake $5, $10 and $20 bills, says Jonathan Cherry, a U.S. Secret Service spokesman. About 80% of counterfeit $50 bills are made with home computers.

That's a significant jump since 2003, when 46% of all counterfeit money passed in the USA was made with digital technology, according to the Secret Service.

Many phony bills being churned out come from inexpensive inkjet printers and scanners available at bargain electronics stores.

Once the province of criminals who fancied themselves artists, today's counterfeiters are often young people with computers looking to make enough fake money to fund a weekend of fun. Others are petty crooks and drug dealers.

Last year, the Secret Service estimates, $43.4 million in counterfeit money was passed in the USA. There is $700 billion in genuine U.S. currency worldwide.

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