WINDSOR, Calif. (KTVU) - 'Tis the season to beware of counterfeit money.
A Walmart store in Windsor, Calif. was swindled over the weekend, accepting $1,000 in phony hundred dollar bills.
"It's not a lot of money for Walmart but we want to catch people who do this, it's not okay," said Sonoma County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Crum, releasing two photos of the suspects in hopes they can be identified.
The U.S. Secret Service always sees an uptick in counterfeit currency this time of year.
Stores are busy, lines are long, and cashiers may not be as vigilant examining money.
For fraudsters, that's an opportunity.
Walmart's incident occurred Sunday, when a man and woman entered the store on Hembree Road, separately, about a half-hour apart.
Each of them passed five $100 bills, which they used to buy gift cards, both times with the same cashier.
"I'm not sure why he didn't catch on," said Sgt. Crum, " but the bills were so identical, eight of the ten serial numbers matched."
There's no indication the clerk was complicit in the crime; more likely he was hurrying to keep the line moving.
"They were fairly good fakes and one actually had the little hologram symbol on it, embedded into the paper," said Crum, "but when you felt the bill, it didn't feel like real money."
Walmart declined comment, referring inquiries to a corporate office.
But a few miles away, at the locally owned supermarket Oliver's, management was well aware of Sunday's scam.
"A thousand dollars at a local business so close to us, really puts up a red flag," Assistant store manager Mike Martinez told KTVU. "As soon as we heard about it, we started educating our clerks, saying they're out there, and if something feels funny, it is funny."
Martinez notes employee awareness is key in preventing loss, and he keeps a counterfeit hundred dollar bill on hand for training purposes.
"We use pens, we use lights, scanners, to help checkers catch them," said Martinez, "and money has many safeguard features but the counterfeiters manage to stay ahead of it."
Martinez also warns his staff, scammers will try to distract them or exploit the holiday rush.
"The people passing this money, they are going to hit you when it's busy," explained Martinez, "when the checker is trying to keep the line moving, they slip through."
The government estimates about $9 million in counterfeit bills are circulating in the United States.
Gift cards are a popular purchase because they can usually be liquidated swiftly.
"Tracing and canceling them is a possibility," said Crum, "but most of the time they switch hands very fast, and are used to get cash or make a purchase, at a store or casino before you have time to cancel them."