Police urge caution over counterfeit currency [Updated]

Herald file photo.

An unwelcome trend from 2017 seems to have found its way into the new year.

On Thursday, the Prince Albert Police Service released a statement encouraging businesses to be on the lookout for counterfeit $20, $50 and $100 bills. Since January, banks in Prince Albert have reported counterfeit currency to police on three different occasions. The main concerns are $20 bills with the serial number #FDV3685454, $50 bills with the serial number LGQ03229158 and $100 bills with the serial number IKR2223601.

Prince Albert Police Service spokesperson Sgt. Travis Willie said it’s not uncommon to see consumers unknowingly pass on fake currency. He’s hopeful that more public education will help local residents identify forged bills before they’re used.

“Whether they withdraw money from the ATM or they get bills back as change … they spend them and never know they even have them,” Willie explained. “I can’t say that it happens all the time, but I know it has happened.”

Police only received two complaints of counterfeit currency in 2015 and two more in 2016. That number jumped to 12 in 2017, and with two more complaints in February and one in March, the 2018 numbers are on pace for a repeat performance.

Willie said more complaints doesn’t necessarily mean there’s more criminal activity. Instead, local residents could just be getting more vigilant.

It’s not always easy to convince people to turn in fake currency, since they’re automatically out $20, $50 or $100. Still, Willie is optimistic consumers will take the right path if educated on what to look for.

“I’d like to think people would do the right thing,” he said. “But, I can’t guarantee that all the time.”

According to the Bank of Canada, the “touch and tilt” method is the best way to determine if bills are fake. Larger bills are the most common types of currency targeted by counterfeiters, with convenience stores, gas stations and banks being the most popular targets.

Under Canadian law, business owners have the risk to ask for I.D. when customers pay with larger bills. They can also refuse any currency they believe to be forged.

Anyone who suspects they have been a victim or counterfeit currency incident can call the Prince Albert Police Service at 306-953-4222.

What to look for

The Bank of Canada suggests residents touch the bills to feel for a raised surface, and then tilt it side to side to see if the security features are engaging. A transparent window will contain those important features. The metallic portrait on the side will match the larger one near the center and will change colour when you tilt the bill and adjust your viewing angle.