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Hong Kong Police Warn of Surge in Counterfeit Currencies

Hong Kong dollar bills

The Hong Kong Police have issued a stern warning to the public to remain vigilant against counterfeit banknotes, following a significant uptick in fake currency transactions from January to April this year.

Over the four-month period, police confiscated 3,396 counterfeit notes of various denominations, valued at HK$2.55 million (US$326,130). This figure marks a substantial increase from the same period last year, when 553 fake bills worth HK$166,220 were seized.

A significant portion of this year’s counterfeits stemmed from three cryptocurrency-related deception cases, which led to the confiscation of 1,693 “training notes” and 347 low-quality fake notes. Three individuals were arrested in connection with these cases: one for allegedly passing counterfeit notes as genuine, and two for obtaining property through deception.

Training notes, which mimic real currency but lack security features, are primarily used for training bank staff. The HK$1,000 training notes resemble genuine bills but include three Chinese characters that denote “practice coupon.” The seizure of these notes brought the total of forged HK$1,000 notes to 2,053 this year.

The number of fake HK$500 notes seized skyrocketed to 919 from 177 in the same timeframe last year. Additionally, police confiscated 404 HK$100 notes, five HK$50 notes, four HK$20 notes, and eleven HK$10 notes.

“Most of the seized counterfeit Hong Kong banknotes are of low printing quality,” a police spokesman stated, emphasizing the need for public vigilance. Police advised checking security features such as the dynamic shimmering pattern and windowed metallic thread on Hong Kong notes. When tilted, a genuine bill’s shimmering pattern and rings on the metallic thread should move correspondingly. Genuine currency also has a strong embossed feel, unlike the smooth surface of the counterfeits.

A police source highlighted that the poor quality of the fakes means they can often be identified by sight or touch alone. Counterfeiters frequently target convenience stores and taxi drivers, using tactics like scrunching the bills to disguise their smooth texture and often operating at night to exploit low light conditions.

“We noticed counterfeiters have recently used fluorescent ink in their efforts to simulate some security features,” the source added.

Despite the surge, another source indicated the situation isn’t alarming, noting that the fakes represent a minuscule fraction of the total genuine currency in circulation, which stood at HK$614 billion in notes and coins as of March. They expressed confidence that the prevalence of counterfeit notes would decline as electronic payment methods gain popularity.

In Hong Kong, the production, circulation, or passing of counterfeit notes is a serious offense under the Crimes Ordinance, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

“On receiving a counterfeit banknote, you should immediately hand it over to the police or a bank and do not attempt to reuse it. Otherwise, you might commit the offense of passing counterfeit notes,” the police spokesman advised.

Authorities continue to urge the public to stay alert and report any suspicious banknotes to the police or financial institutions.