Michael Sanborn heads the FBIs Stolen Valor case squad, which is charged with seeking out medals which have been stolen or counterfeited.

Just last month his team returned two Civil War era medals belonging to a T Jenkins and a G Emmons to Patriot's Point, where there is a Naval museum onboard an aircraft carrier.

Over the past 15 years the team have seized 200 medals nationwide.

Most of these are counterfeit rather than stolen, no doubt because it's easier to make a medal than be awarded one. Sanborn worries that there may be many times that number still around.

The task force started up in 1995 before the internet became a factor, which has obviously increased their workload.

In 2004, for example, a Canadian man was caught selling supposed Medals of Honour on eBay. At the time a company trusted to make genuine medals, HLI Lordship Industries, was contentedly creating counterfeits as a sideline.

The forged medals, which lacked both a name and the company stamp, were sold to someone who in turn re-sold them on at gun shows. A number of those who bought them actually had them engraved with their own names to revel in the glory, if not the honour, of receiving one.

Those charged have included a mayor, a judge and a police chief.

The conviction of HLI Lordship has led to a gradual reduction of the number of fakes on the market, both directly and by bringing the issue to public and government attention.

The penalties for trading in fake military decorations are tougher, since the 2006 Stolen Valor Act, and falsely claiming to have been decorated is now a crime in itself.

The pretenders had previously marched in parades wearing the medals - even though some of them hadn't served at all.

Others displayed them proudly in their offices. In some despicable cases, they even spoke at funerals on the strength of the false claims.

Genuine collectors should always be careful to buy from a trustworthy source in order to avoid disappointment, and to ensure they are not funding the forgery trade. 

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