Skip to main content

Here's how to tell if you are holding a counterfeit bank note

Share

Following a recent case of a Saskatchewan man receiving US$4,200 in counterfeit bills in his mail – CTV News reached out to Canada’s authority on fake money to learn more about how counterfeiting enforcement works and what residents can look for.

Regina business owner Jesse Wiebe discovered the cash while checking his mail earlier this month.

Inside a brown paper envelope destined for a business in Flushing, Queens were 14 uncut sheets of counterfeit US$50 notes.

The package was marked as “Return to Sender” and the discovery led Wiebe on a journey to figure why the package ended up in his mailbox.

“I started right away running the google search, seeing what differences would be between counterfeit and real cash,” Wiebe told CTV News. “It actually passed a lot of those tests.”

Using a counterfeit detecting pen, Wiebe was able to confirm the notes were fake and quickly handed them over to the Regina Police Service (RPS).

From there, the notes were sent to Ottawa to be examined by the RCMP’s National Anti-Counterfeiting Bureau (NCAB). The organization acts as Canada’s central repository for all suspect bank notes and coins found in circulation.

“Police agencies can submit all of the suspect bank notes to the NACB for forensic analysis. The NACB will examine the notes, produce a forensic report and account for them in the national counterfeit database,” RCMP Sgt. Kim Chamberland explained in a message to CTV News.

“Once the counterfeit notes are no longer required for court purposes, the NACB will follow the necessary steps to have these notes destroyed.”

The bureau also provides forensic analysis into travel and identification documents, payment cards as well as $1 and $2 coins. NCAB also provides currency experts who can testify in court.

"RCMP Federal Policing is committed to addressing counterfeit currency where such criminal activity has a nexus to serious and organized crime or where it threatens the national security of Canada," Chamberland added. "It also represents the RCMP with stakeholders and partners regarding counterfeit currency."

So how much is out there?

The RCMP provides annual statistics for how much Canadian fake currency is discovered by law enforcement.

There are two types of currency police deal with. They are:

Seized, which are notes that have been obtained by authorities before entering the financial system.

And passed: which is currency that has made it into circulation and has been turned over to police.

In 2022, 53,630 bank notes were seized by police across Canada – while 15,332 were turned in to authorities after making it into circulation.

The fake bills that made it into the financial system had a collective value of $933,798 that year.

Overall, $4,347,178 in counterfeit currency was reported in 2022.

$100 bills made up the majority of seizures both in and out of circulation – while $20 bills were the second most common to be counterfeited.

By province, Alberta touted the largest amount of counterfeit bank notes with 30,277 seized by law enforcement and another 1,041 passing into circulation.

Quebec ranked as second with 13,910 seized and 2,097 passing into circulation.

Far behind the leaders was Saskatchewan, reporting a mere 454 counterfeit bills combined between the two categories in 2022.

How to tell if it's fake

Both the Bank of Canada and the U.S Federal Reserve have resources for residents looking to confirm if their bills are real or counterfeit.

“Its important to know kind of the tellers of what counterfeit is. If you know its individual security features it much easier to test if its currency,” RPS media development officer Les Parker told CTV News.

“If you have any suspicions, you have the right to refuse a currency transaction if you believe the currency is counterfeit.”

Canadian polymer bank notes feature transparent, raised inked, and metallic sections which act as security features.

“You can shine an ultraviolet light through Canadian currency and it will actually reveal small letters and numbers denoting the value,” Parker explained. “That’s a hard feature for counterfeiters to reproduce.”

In Wieber’s specific case, Parker explained the abnormal details officers noted.

“Some of the currency that RPS sees is very, very convincing. However, in uncut sheets as it was reported in this instance – that is unusual,” he said. “It’s typically cut to be presented as real currency so to get it in this shape is unusual.”

Parker was sure to make one point crystal clear.

“The passing of counterfeit currency is a crime,” he said. “If someone hands you a bill and tries to present it as real currency. They’ve defrauded you.”

He encouraged anyone who has come across fake currency to report it to their local police service and hand in the currency as evidence.

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

The Israel-Hamas war is testing whether campuses are sacrosanct places for speech and protest

Administrators on some campuses have called in local police to break up pro-Palestinian protesters demanding that their schools divest from Israel in demonstrations that Israel's allies say are antisemitic and make campuses unsafe. From Columbia University in New York to the University of California, Los Angeles, thousands of students and faculty have been arrested in the past month.

Stay Connected