DULUTH (AP) -- After years in the Secret Service helping bust sophisticated national counterfeiters, Win Erickson now has invented a machine to take out the small-time crook.
It's called The POSSE (Point Of Sale Security Examiner), and it's designed to help businesses catch money fakers in the act.
''A desktop color copier and a little patience are all that is required to counterfeit any paper document,'' Erickson said.
The POSSE, a 9-inch-high black box, uses a series of black lights, magnifying glasses and back lights to aid in identifying counterfeit bills, credit cards, checks or coupons.
Erickson, his family, friends and associates have developed and built the device in his basement over the last five years.
Erickson's company, IWIS Inc., has sold 20 of the $899 machines to banks, casinos and police, he said.
Here's how it works:
U.S. currency has many security features in each bill. For example, most bills have a near-invisible watermark, a polyester strip through the inside of the bill and microscopic print.
The POSSE checks money for the security features all at once. Any denomination of bill can be slipped inside the machine for examination. The black light will light up the polyester strip. A back light makes the watermark visible.
Two microscopes make reading the small print on each bill easy. Several other lights and features help identify the many aspects of different currencies.
Simply holding a bill up to the light often won't detect all of the methods counterfeiters may use, Erickson said. ''That is unsatisfactory in today's American society. It's very difficult for you to see what's there.''
The machine also works on credit cards by lighting hidden symbols with the black light. Fake checks, money orders or bills also would light up if they weren't made out of the correct kind of paper.
''The purpose of all of it is to defeat the copier,'' Erickson said.
So far, a few local businesses have purchased the ''counterfeit detection device,'' including Hermantown Federal Credit Union and Western Bank.
''We like it very much,'' said Martha Wirta, who works with marketing and computer operations of Hermantown Credit Union. ''If someone had changed the amount of money on the check, that will show up. If it's different ink, or different handwriting, it arouses suspicions.''
The credit union analyzes out-of-town checks and driver's licenses beneath the black lights. It also scans money or checks being deposited into a new account, Wirta said.
Police in Reno, Nev., purchased one of the machines to verify and examine confiscated fake money.
''It's a very useful tool,'' Reno Police Sgt. Todd Shipley said. ''In one small package, it incorporates a lot of tools we would not necessarily have. We use it frequently on cash, counterfeit money and primarily on counterfeit checks and credit cards via the black light feature.''
No one has been arrested directly because of the POSSE, but Erickson said he heard that a man ran out of a Nevada casino while his money was being analyzed.
During his 20-year career with the Secret Service, Erickson traveled the nation, protecting many politicians, including former President Jimmy Carter and his family. In later years, Erickson said he worked in the Minneapolis Secret Service office investigating ''complex credit card cases.''
Erickson retired from the Secret Service in 1995 and moved back to Duluth, where he was born 55 years ago.
Shortly afterward, he started working on the POSSE with the help of several friends and contacts established over the years, including engineers, business managers and suppliers, he said.
About 15 people now work on the project, hoping the product will catch on.
''Most of them are working on potential, rather than direct compensation,'' Erickson said.
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