When Secret Service Agent Matthew Britsch began trawling for major counterfeiters in the shadowy marketplaces of the dark web, he acted like any smart consumer on eBay — he studied the reviews.
Britsch knew he had struck gold when he found Billmaker, the online moniker of an anonymous counterfeiter who promised a high-quality $100 bill and a money-back guarantee. He even had a loyal fan base who praised his work and customer service with scores of positive reviews.
“Very good quality and got here quick,” one gushed.
“All passed with no issue whatsoever,” another wrote, approvingly. “FRESH CLEAN BILLS!” agreed a third.
“Billmaker was a five-star guy,” said Britsch. “He wanted those five-star reviews to help him sell more bills. That was clearly his goal.”
The agent clicked “buy” and in September 2017 purchased four fake $100 bills for $120 in bitcoin, the online cryptocurrency. The counterfeits arrived on time and were as good as promised.
An analysis by Secret Service experts linked the fraudulent bills to thousands of others that had been passed with a total face value of $4.1 million. That made Billmaker the nation’s most prolific domestic counterfeiter.