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Fake currency: Travelers to Canada, beware of counterfeit notes

Hi-tech printers are producing fake Canadian notes and travelers should be on the lookout. Counterfeit currency is spreading throughout British Columbia, according to Canadian law enforcement agencies.

Spain's national soccer team arrives at Barajas-Adolfo Suarez Airport on June 24, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.
Spain's national soccer team arrives at Barajas-Adolfo Suarez Airport on June 24, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Local officials previously considered Canadian currency as impossible to counterfeit. Since last year, efforts by a still-unknown crime syndicate have proven that hi-tech printers are fooling many citizens and storefronts with illegal notes.

The Bank of Canada issued new $100 polymer bank notes that were designed to make the currency more secure and credible. However, fake $100 bills are circulating throughout British Columbia and officials have issued a warning to the general public to be vigilant for suspicious notes. Many of the counterfeit bank notes seem to be spreading out of Vancouver, according to a May 22 report by ATM Marketplace.

The Bank of Canada advises people to do the following if they come across suspicious Canadian bills that could be counterfeit:

  1. Assess the situation to ensure that you are not at risk. Then do the following:
  2. Politely refuse the note and explain that you suspect that it may be counterfeit.
  3. Ask for another note (and check it too).
  4. Advise the person to check the note with the local police.
  5. Inform your local police of a possible attempt to pass suspected counterfeit money.

The imitation polymer notes are being successfully exchanged at various retail stores. Consumers and business owners are being encouraged to check large denomination bills for raised (layered) printing and other visual elements such as dynamic coloring.

“[T]here's almost an overconfidence among retailers and the public in terms of when you sort of see the strip, the polymer looking materials, everybody says, 'Oh, this one's going to be good because you know it's impossible to counterfeit,” RCMP Sgt. Duncan Pound told Maclean's. The government is worried that copycat syndicates could take root in other major cities such as Toronto and Edmonton given the weak economy.

As of 2012, the Canadian dollar is the sixth most traded currency in the world.

The scam could cost consumers, U.S. tourists, and the Canadian government millions of dollars. “The foreign exchange market is undoubtedly the world's largest financial market. It is the market where one country's currency is traded for another's,” according to Currencyxchanger. Local police are currently investigating the source of the scam. However, it’s likely that the crooks are using widely available printers set up in a residential area.