Counterfeit Currency Situation in Hong Kong
The seized counterfeit Hong Kong dollar banknotes are insignificant when compared with the number of banknotes in circulation in Hong Kong. They are mostly of poor quality, and were mainly produced by ‘Inkjet’ or ‘Toner’ printers. Most of the counterfeit banknotes have no security features and a smooth surface with no embossed feel. Some even have the same serial number.
It is noted that more counterfeit HKD$100 and HKD$50 were seized since June 2016 compared to the corresponding period last year. These counterfeit banknotes are mainly produced by criminals using ‘Inkjet’ printers, come with a smooth surface, and carry no embossed feel. These banknotes bear no security features but have silver stickers disguised as the holographic windowed thread and are poor in quality. The public can distinguish the counterfeit banknotes by naked eye or touch. Criminals normally tender the counterfeit banknotes in day-to-day retail transactions while the public is unaware.
Nowadays, business and commerce between the Mainland and Hong Kong are frequent. Both Hong Kong and CNY banknotes are widely circulated in the two places. In recent years, about 40% of the counterfeit banknotes seized in Hong Kong was CNY banknotes.
How does it work?
Fraudsters in Hong Kong usually tender counterfeit banknotes at convenience stores, wet markets or shops during rush hours when the shopkeepers are less attentive. Fraudsters would also take advantage of the dim environment in public transport vehicles such as buses and taxis, or tender a large denomination banknote to the driver/ cashier for change, then distract the driver/ cashier in various ways in order to use counterfeit banknotes for payment.
In the past, Hong Kong residents received counterfeit banknotes (including counterfeit CNY and Hong Kong dollar banknotes) with genuine banknotes being swapped through ‘Money Swapping’ scams conducted by fraudsters while travelling in the Mainland. The usual modus operandi is that culprits would allege that customers used counterfeit money for payment of taxi fares or goods, and then they swapped the genuine banknotes with the counterfeit ones. In some cases, victims put their wallets in lockers provided in massage establishments, the culprits then opened the lockers and swapped the money while the victims were in use of massage services.
What is our Advice?
- Browse the web pages of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the People’s Bank of China to familiarise yourself with the security features of Hong Kong banknotes and CNY banknotes;
- Be careful while receiving or changing banknotes;
- Check the security features of the banknote, such as the holographic windowed thread and the watermark; rub its surface to see whether it gives you an embossed feel and see if the colour of the banknote fades;
- On receiving a counterfeit banknote, you should immediately hand it over to the Police or a bank; do not attempt to reuse it, otherwise, you might commit the offence of “Passing counterfeit notes” under Section 99 of the Crimes Ordinance, Chapter 200, the Laws of Hong Kong;
- Pay attention to police publicity campaigns so as to heighten your awareness in this regard; and
- In case of doubt, seek assistance from the Police or banks.