Australian bank notes seem pretty bulletproof – they’re made of polymer and they have so many security features – however organised crime syndicates haven’t been put off, and the country is now flooded with counterfeit $50 notes.
Shockingly, more than 33,000 fake $50 have been detected and removed from circulation in the last year, which is triple what was detected in previous years.
However the government warns there are plenty more notes being used every day in Australia that are not legitimate currency.
People who are making replicas of our bills are using equipment readily available to the public, a worrying fact when you consider how high-quality technology has become.
“While counterfeiting rates have been rising over the past few years, particularly of the $50 banknote, counterfeiting rates remain fairly low by international standards,” a RBA spokeswoman said.
According to Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency, a police investigation revealed the serial numbers from one batch of fake $50 notes had been used more than 760 times around the country.
“This court sees matters where hundreds of thousands of dollars of extremely good quality notes are often produced,” County Court Judge John Smallwood said during a 2015 trial.
The Age reports, a RBA counterfeiting expert testified that $32,000 worth of finished $50 notes seized by police were “fairly sophisticated” fakes produced on a commercial grade inkjet printer.
“The quality of the $50 notes tendered in evidence was such that I was unable to tell them apart from real currency,” NSW District Court Judge Ross Letherbarrow commented at the 2013 trial.
As we reported last month, the RBA are upgrading the security features of Australia’s currency, an almost 10-year project, however it doesn’t erase the fact that counterfeits do and still will exist.
So how can you tell if your notes are counterfeit? And what can you do?
The RBA have a fact sheet about how to do so, and recommend checking the following:
1 – IS IT PLASTIC?
Australian banknotes are printed on plastic and have a distinct feel. A suspect banknote may feel excessively thick or thin compared to a genuine banknote. It is difficult to start a tear along the edge of a genuine banknote. You can also try scrunching the banknote in your hand – a genuine banknote should spring back.
2 – LOOK FOR THE COAT OF ARMS
If you hold the banknote to the light, you should see the Australian Coat of Arms.
3 – LOOK FOR THE STAR
Diamond-shaped patterns are printed inside a circle on both sides of the banknote. If you hold the banknote up to the light, the patterns should line up perfectly to form a seven-pointed star.
4 – CHECK THE CLEAR WINDOW
The clear window should be an integral part of the banknote and not an addition. Check that the white image printed on the window cannot be easily rubbed off. Also look for the embossing – there is a wave pattern in the window of the $10 banknote, and the value of the banknote in the windows of $20, $50 and $100 banknotes.
OTHER SECURITY FEATURES
Other security features to check if you suspect a banknote might be counterfeit:
An example of microprint.
5 – FEEL THE DARK PRINTING
It is produced with a special raised ink that can be felt with your finger.
6 – CHECK THE PRINT QUALITY
The background printing should be sharp. Check for irregularities such as less clearly defined patterns, thicker or thinner lines, or colour differences.
7 – LOOK FOR THE MICROPRINTING
Under a magnifying glass you will see tiny, clearly defined words on the top left corner of the $5 banknote and near the portraits on the other banknotes.
An example of text glowing under a UV light.
8 – LOOK AT THE BANKNOTE UNDER UV LIGHT
Most of the banknote should not fluoresce. The exceptions are the serial numbers, a patch on the $5 banknote and a patch on the $20, $50 and $100 banknotes that also shows the value (e.g. 50).
If you come across a banknote that you suspect is counterfeit:
Handle the suspect banknote as little as possible and store it in an envelope.
Note any relevant information, such as how it came into your possession.
Report the matter immediately to State or Federal police