Topic: No fan of funny money  (Read 3903 times)
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« on: June 23, 2005, 12:30:05 am »

No fan of funny money
Businesses, banks learn about counterfeit cash

Monday June 06, 2005

Bank of Canada analyst Michelle Witkowski, based out of the Calgary office, shows a fan of “funny money” used during her seminar with local businesses.

Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser — A cashless society would put counterfeiters out of business.

“Despite more people using debit, Canadians are still using cash,” acknowledged Bank of Canada Calgary-based analyst Michelle Witkowski during a two-day counterfeiting seminar offered by the Wetaskiwin RCMP and Wetaskiwin and District Chamber of Commerce for local businesses and banks.

“More than ever, we’re not a cashless society.”

With the Bank of Canada responsible for our paper currency, not the coins, currently genuine bank notes in circulation total $41 billion.

Witkowski said the Bank of Canada remains vigilant when it comes to foiling counterfeiters, who can pass millions of dollars to unsuspecting store owners or gas station operators, especially during a six-week period leading up to Christmas.

The computer technology is cheaper and scanners are better compared to the days when an engraver would carve out a bank note on a metal plate before running off money from a printing press.

“They’re smart, but sometimes outsmart themselves,” noted RCMP Const. Jose Agostinho. “Counterfeiters are lazy … they can’t put into play all the security features into the bills, so check the security features.”

The upgraded $10 bill, introduced across Canada two weeks ago, is designed to stymie counterfeiters, according to Witkowski.

“These enhanced security features make it easier for consumers and cash-handlers to verify the authenticity of the their bank notes, but difficult for counterfeiters to copy,” Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge said in a release.
The new high-tech sawbuck contains a metallic holographic stripe, a watermark portrait, a windowed colour-shifting thread woven into the paper, a see-through number and enhanced fluorescence under ultraviolet lighting.

It joins $20, $50 and $100 notes with the same security features.

The Bank of Canada reported a 25 per cent increase in the number of bad bills passed or seized by police last year.

There were 360,160 fake $20 bills reported in 2004 and 123,400 bad $10 bank notes, making up most of the 553,000 counterfeits.

“We don’t know from year to year what (money) will be on hit parade,” said Witkowski. “Last year, it was the $20. In 2001, it was the $100 bill.”

She said lower denomination will “go under the radar” when it comes to passing counterfeit bills.

“Will the $5 note be exposed to more counterfeiting?” she asked, adding, “If we can create it, then they can create it. (Counterfeiters) are entrepreneurial.”

The $5 note might be next for a security upgrade if it suddenly is the bill of choice among counterfeiters. Despite having elaborate security features put in place, Witkowski said this has not stopped the criminal element from wanting to make and pass funny money off as real.

As of February 2000, the Bank of Canada no longer issues the $1,000 note. And the scenic notes printed between 1969 and 1979 are no longer put in circulation.

“There were fewer security features back then for the Bank of Canada on these notes, so they were easier to counterfeit,” said Witkowski.

Retailers coming across a scenic $100 note should raise a red flag, added Agostinho.

“The fact that they are being used should be suspicious. If it’s a collector bill it would be relatively in mint condition.

“An old $100 bill not in active circulation and in decent shape will command more money on the collector’s scene.

“Ask yourself, why is it being spent when on the collector’s market you might get $150 for it.”

He added, “Buying a bag of chips with a $100 bill … think about it?”

Agostinho conceded counterfeiters want to maximize what they get back on passing funny money as real currency. And small-town Alberta is ripe for the picking.

“When it comes to counterfeit money, the small town is the place to go.”

Added Witkowski, “(Counterfeiters) will stake out your business coming into town. So, be proactive and check your bank notes.”

“You can take a hit on a $100 loss or take five minutes to train your staff and have them check the money,” said Agostinho.

While a business has the right not to accept currency, Witkowski said the feel and look of the new $10, $20, $50 and $100 help with detecting bogus bills.

“Check the money by comparing what you have in the till,” she advised. “Don’t just take the money. You should hold and feel it.

“The last person holding the (counterfeit) money is out that money.”

The planchettes on a bill can be removed if scratched off -- a scanned copy won’t have this key security feature -- while the optical security device in the upper left corner cannot be peeled off.

Using raised ink on the numerals, portrait and coat of arms feels thicker to the touch. The look of the ink affords clarity and sharpness of images and printing.

The portraits on the front of the bills feature concentric circles within the eyes; fine lines in the hair and face.

The paper used by the Bank of Canada, which is not available commercially, ensures the genuine bill does not glow under ultraviolet light unless it has been washed with certain detergents.

“If you get a counterfeit call (the police) right away,” said Agostinho, who then forwards the funny money on to a lab in Ottawa for study.

“Don’t hold on to your fake bills. If it’s a week old it makes it difficult for tracing the money trail … where did it come from?”

Witkowski said it’s also against the law to hold on to counterfeit bills.

If you suspect money is counterfeit and to assist with an investigation, Agostinho advised cashiers should get a licence number of the vehicle the culprit passing the money drove away in.

Working on counterfeit cases can be “tedious,” according to Agostinho.

The person passing the bogus money like to hit convenience stores, dropping a big bill on a small purchase. Agostinho said they will prey on an inexperienced clerk who’s likely not trained to distinguish between real and counterfeit.

Grocery and department stores are targetted during the busy festive season, with the culprit looking for an easy mark at the cash register. It’s unlikely counterfeit bills will be passed at a bank.

“They will be patient,” he said, “getting in a slow line. They’ll look for a clerk who gets flustered.

“They might ask for two $10s for a $20. The teller won’t know what hit her.”

During the 2004 Christmas season, counterfeit money Agostinho sent to Ottawa had come from money used in 2003 out of BC’s lower mainland.

“We catch more bills (during the Christmas season) because they’re trying to pass more. It’s busy then and easier to get distracted.”

Witkowski said it makes good business sense to be vigilant when it comes to counterfeit cash.

Verifying the authenticity of a bank note only takes a few seconds and will protect businesses from unnecessary losses due to counterfeiting.

A point taken based on the more than 100 individuals who attended the seminar featuring Witkowski and Agostinho.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2005, 09:32:51 am by suretteda »

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