You’ve probably seen music videos or movies where someone takes wads of cash and throws them in the air, letting the $50s and $20s rain down around them.

The money that’s used in the productions isn’t legal tender, and it says so on the bills. But a man in La Vista who was paid with the bills didn’t notice the disclaimer until it was too late.

The man called La Vista police Monday evening after selling a camera and keyboard to a man who gave him $500 cash for the items. After the sale, Officer Dana Miller said, the man looked at the $50s, $20s and $10s and realized he had been scammed.

“It looks very real in person,” Miller said Wednesday, noting that the prop money can be purchased online. She said if she had not seen the statement on the bills, “I would think it’s real.”

The offense in this case, she would learn, would be charged as theft by deception, not counterfeiting.

The man told police the scammer drove away in a blue Dodge Caravan, but it didn’t have license plates, making it very difficult for police to track down.

The movie prop notes have become a big problem for the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates the counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

“We’re actually making a push as an agency to go after these notes harder,” said Paul Brandenburg, the resident agent in charge of the Omaha Secret Service office.

A lot of prosecutors around the country don’t look at possessing the prop money as an offense they can prosecute, he said. “It’s all about the intent and how you’re going to use it.”

Counterfeit notes confiscated from across the state come in daily to the Omaha office, Brandenburg said, in “all different kinds of denominations and different styles.”

For a time, he said, counterfeit notes from Israel were most common, then ones from South America. Now, he said, the prop notes are “taking over,” and there are about 20 different versions of them.

In fiscal year 2019, Brandenburg said, the Secret Service has seized $4 million in so-called motion picture notes.

Brandenburg said the Secret Service soon will unveil its “Quick Glance” campaign to notify the public that it takes only a glance to verify if a note in question is counterfeit or not.

If people discover that they have one of the notes, he said, they should take it to their local police station or the Omaha Secret Service office at 2707 N. 108th St.

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Bob Glissmann helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow him on Twitter @BobGlissmann. Phone: 402-444-1109.

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