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RBA reveals 9 ways to spot fake money

Lucy Dean
·3-min read
Hands holding wallet with australian dollars and make a payment - coronavirus finance struggle concept
Can you spot the signs your money is fake? Image: Getty

A group of counterfeiters injected more than 5,800 fake notes into the Australian financial system in 2017, and now the Reserve Bank of Australia is telling Australians how to spot a fake.

The majority of these notes – dubbed Source 37 counterfeits – were detected by cash-in-transit (CIT) companies, which transport money, with the others found by banks and retail organisations.

“While we would typically expect more counterfeits to be detected in transactions at retail outlets, the higher-than-average quality of Source 37 counterfeits meant that they were less likely to be noticed at the point of sale and were only detected after being received by a bank or CIT,” authors of the RBA report A Counterfeit Story: Operation Gridline Kathryn Miegel and Kylie Symeonakis said.

Second polymer series. Image: RBA
Second polymer series. Image: RBA
First polymer series. Image: RBA
First polymer series. Image: RBA

“Banks and CITs are more likely to detect high-quality counterfeits than the general public because they process cash using machines that are able to detect counterfeits and their staff tend to be very experienced in handling cash.”

Overall, the counterfeits the RBA detected were worth $540,000 to businesses and the community, but the blow could have been significantly higher, with the police finding material to produce more than $1.7 million in additional counterfeits.

Noting this, the RBA revealed nine signs a banknote is real. If these signs are missing, you’re dealing with a fake.

1. Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms. Image: RBA
Coat of Arms. Image: RBA

The first polymer series, or Australia’s older currency, will have a coat of arms that is only visible when held up to the light.

2. Federation Star

Federation Star. Image: RBA
Federation Star. Image: RBA

On the older currency, those who suspect their money is fake should hold the banknote up to the light to see the diamond patterns form a seven-pointed star.

3. Clear window

Clear window. Image: RBA
Clear window. Image: RBA

Similarly, on older currency, you can check to see if it’s fake by checking if your note has a clear window, and that the white ink of the Southern Cross cannot be easily rubbed off.

4. Flying bird

Flying bird. Image: RBA
Flying bird. Image: RBA

On Australia’s newer currency, or the second polymer series, tilting the banknote should see the flying bird move its wings and change colour in the clear top-to-bottom window.

5. Reversing number

Reversing number. Image: RBA
Reversing number. Image: RBA

Also on Australia’s newer notes, tilting the banknote should see the number on the building in the top-to-bottom clear window change direction.

6. Rolling colour effect

Rolling colour effect. Image: RBA
Rolling colour effect. Image: RBA

On the newer banknotes, those who suspect they’re dealing with a counterfeit can tilt the note to check if there is a rolling colour effect.

“On one side of the banknote it is a prominent patch near the top corner. On the other side it is within a bird shape,” the RBA said.

7. Intaglio print

On both the old and the new notes, there should be a distinctive texture of the dark printing. This can be felt when touching the portraits and numerals.

8. Microprint

Also on both, there should be tiny but clearly defined text in several spots on the note.

9. Fluorescent ink

The final mark of a fake is if the ink isn’t fluorescent.

“Look at the banknotes under a UV light to see features fluoresce.”

If you suspect you have a fake note, you should try to touch it as little as possible and put it in an envelope.

Then, make a note of how it came to be in your possession and report the counterfeit to the police.

“You are well within your rights to refuse to accept a banknote if you have concerns about it,” the RBA said.

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