Reports of ‘bleached’ counterfeit bills crop up across North America

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Fake dollar bills are appearing in greater numbers across North America in recent weeks, from Texas to Hawaii to Canada.

On May 8, a report revealed that police in Brownsville, Texas, have arrested a man accused of manufacturing counterfeit dollar bills.

The 45-year-old was charged with seven counts of forgery following numerous police reports from local businesses including grocery stores, hotels, gas stations, and restaurants complaining about people paying with counterfeit bills.

However, it appears that these fake banknotes were not limited to just one area as they have been circulating further afield.

Earlier this month, it was reported that counterfeit money was used to enter a baseball field in Ohio.

Dodgy dollars have even been found as far away as Hawaii as police have reported that people are taking low-denomination USD bills and turning them into $100 bills.

The counterfeiters were reportedly taking $1 bills, bleaching the ink off, and printing over the original currency to make it look like $100, said local police.

They will then use the fake note to purchase something small to get genuine currency in return for change.

Earlier this year, fake $100 bills were reported circulating in Ontario, Canada. Meanwhile, on May 12, police in Charlottetown, Canada, warned that counterfeit American $100 bills used as movie props were being passed at local businesses.

Source: Charlottetown Police

It also comes amid the circulation of a widely shared Tiktok video of a former Donald Trump staffer showing him boasting that he hands out “fake Hollywood money” to homeless people.

The U.S. Secret Service reported that they seized nearly $22 million in counterfeit cash in 2023 while ABC reported that “the crime of counterfeiting is making a comeback,” in March.

Related: How to identify fake cryptocurrency

However, fake fiat is not a problem limited to North America.

On May 12, Insider Politic reported on X that a resident of Barcelona, Spain, was arrested for the production of counterfeit 20 and 50-euro banknotes in her apartment. In April, German investigators reported the seizure of counterfeit dollar bills with a face value of over $103 million.

Another blow to fiat?

The latest flurry of fake fiat reports is another blow to traditional paper currencies which have been under the macroeconomic microscope over the past year or so.

Many commentators, particularly in the crypto community, have been critical of central bank policy which involves printing money and inflating the circulation.

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk even compared the U.S. central bank to the popular board game Monopoly on X on May 12 for its similarities in manufacturing money and having a bank that can never go broke.

How the Federal Reserve works

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2024

On the other hand, crypto assets such as Bitcoin are extremely difficult to counterfeit or double-spend due to the immutable nature of the blockchain on which they reside and the security of the network through proof-of-work consensus. 

However, that hasn’t stopped other types of scams, such as attempted sales of testnet BTC, which is supposed to be worthless, to dupe users into thinking they’re receiving the genuine article.

Other scams include spurious tokens with the same or similar tickers being peddled as tokens for a genuine project, such as a fake Ethena labs token which was exploited for $290,000 on the Binance launch pool in March.

Magazine: Unstablecoins: Depegging, bank runs and other risks loom

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