Retailers have reported a recent rise in the frequency and quality of counterfeit banknotes.

Overall, counterfeiting is at its lowest level in a decade. This decline is due to fewer transactions being made with cash, COVID-19 lockdowns, the rollout of a new banknote series with upgraded security features, and ongoing targeting by law enforcement.

This recent increase can potentially be attributed to fraudsters taking every opportunity to run through their supply of counterfeit notes as we shift away from cash payments and capitalising on low staff familiarity with counterfeit detection.

In the lead-up to the busy Christmas shopping season, this is prime time for counterfeit notes to pass through without detection as staff don’t have the time to check.

The $50 note continues to be the most counterfeited denomination.

Alarmingly, the quality of fake notes is also increasing. The Royal Bank of Australia (RBA) graded 40% of the counterfeit notes it received as “good to excellent.”

Retailers need to be aware that counterfeit notes have no value. If they are banked, financial institutions will simply deduct the amount from your account – you will not be reimbursed.

How to spot a fake

Australian banknotes are printed on plastic. One of the easiest ways to check a note is genuine is the “scrunch test.” Try scrunching the banknote in your hand – a genuine banknote should spring back.

You can also check that the clear window is part of the banknote as opposed to addition and that the white image on the window cannot easily be rubbed off.

Resources available

If you suspect a banknote is fake, check the RBA Counterfeit Banknotes Guide. This is an excellent resource to keep at the point of sale for your team.

There is also an RBA Banknotes app, which will take you through the steps to check each type of note and give directions on the next steps.

Scanning machines are also available which can be purchased and used to verify each note.

However, it is important to remember that the RBA app, scanning machines, and other methods of checking for counterfeit notes are not foolproof due to the rapidly improving quality of counterfeit notes.

How to avoid accepting a fake note
  • Be vigilant – especially in very busy times
  • Don’t allow the customer to rush you at the point of sale
  • Train all staff on what to look out for
  • You have the legal right to refuse to accept any note that you suspect of being fake. Don’t be afraid to refuse to accept a note that looks suspicious.

 


The National Retail Association urges retailers to report all instances of crime so law enforcement can get a more accurate reflection of the scope of the issue and deploy relevant resources in the future. To find the relevant state or territory online crime reporting platform, please click here.

Have queries? Contact the Policy team: [email protected]