Pushing through the door at Arby's last night, a hastily written sign taped on the door caught my eye. Too hungry to stop and read, I moved straight to the counter to place my order. There, prominently taped to each cash register, were more of the handmade paper signs: We will no longer accept $50 or $100 bills.

Of course, I had to ask. "Why not?"

"We were getting too many counterfeit bills," she told me.

Who hasn't wondered at one time or another how easy it would be to make money? It's a lot harder than we would think.

In the first stages of the process, highly skilled engravers cut intricate designs into soft steel, known as the master-die. Separate portions of the design ... the portrait, the vignette, the ornamentation, and the lettering ... are hand-cut. In all, this begins a process of production that includes over 65 separate and distinct steps.

Of course, there's an easier way. Today, counterfeiting once again is on the rise due to the ease and speed with which large quantities of counterfeit currency can be produced using modern photographic and printing equipment.

While many consider counterfeiting a minor crime, it is actually a crime that can cripple a nation and its economy. Counterfeiting of money is one of the oldest crimes in history. It was a serious problem during the 19th century when banks issued their own currency. At the time of the Civil War, it was estimated that one-third of all currency in circulation was counterfeit.

At that time, there were approximately 1,600 state banks designing and printing their own notes. Each note carried a different design, making it difficult to distinguish the 4,000 varieties of counterfeits from the 7,000 varieties of genuine notes.

The United States Secret Service is charged with investigating each and every counterfeiting case. No matter how large or small, each counterfeiting case carries the serious consequences of prison time and/or fines.

With all of the law enforcement tools at their hands -- surveillance, wire taps, computers, and more -- the key to detecting a counterfeit bill lies not with the agent's knowledge about the criminal. He must start by developing a sophisticated knowledge of the real thing.

As the Secret Service website says, you must Know Your Money. What does the real thing look like? Whose picture should be on the bill? Is the green a solid shade, or is it a mixture of cyan and yellow? Does the president's face stand out from the background, or is it flat and lifeless? Are the serial numbers uniformly spaced and aligned?

In fact, one website dedicated to helping you spot counterfeit currency offers this advice. If you think you have a bad bill, lay it next to a bill you know is genuine. Back and forth, looking from one bill to the next, real, fake ... the best tool of detection is knowing the real deal.

This is advice that works for much more than paper money. An intimate knowledge of the real deal can keep you from being defrauded with counterfeit coins, checks, stamps and Beanie Babies. That's right.

Again, another website, and more advice about separating the real from the fake ... shoppers are coached. "Get to know the real deal." Go to Beanie Baby shows, touch them, feel them, check out the edge of the tags, the points on the stars, the shine of the gold thread -- in all, there are 17 ways to determine if you have a counterfeit "Baby."

So it is with love. Abstinence educators around the country tell the same sad story about our young people. Teens are confused about sex because they are confused about love. The Real Deal ... a picture of love that lasts for a lifetime has been ripped from their culture, their movies and their music ... and replaced with counterfeits.

Children are learning to embrace the counterfeit. Teens today, working to build their place in a world of smaller broken families and relationships, are building their love based on images flashed at them on the big screen and pounded at them in their music. And every counterfeit picture of love they see is a picture of sex.

If it's true about money, it's even more true about love. While many consider counterfeiting love a minor crime, it is actually a crime that can cripple a nation and its people .... An intimate knowledge of the real deal can keep you from being defrauded with the counterfeit.

If it's true about money, it's even more true about our kids. A real deal thousand-dollar bill is worth a lot. So are our kids.

Post the signs. It's time to get serious. We will no longer accept counterfeit love.


A former elementary school teacher, Jane Jimenez (speakout@fromthehomefront.org) is now a freelance writer dedicated to issues of importance to women and the family. She writes a regular column titled "From the Home Front." Her work has appeared in both Christian and secular publications. Jane and her husband Victor live in Phoenix and have two children.

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