Paper Money

Canada's use of polymer for notes thwarts forgers

Canada reports a decrease in the counterfeiting of Bank of Canada notes since a polymer substrate like that used on this Series 2012 $20 note replaced the traditional paper substrate.

Original images courtesy of Bank of Canada.

A report by the Canadian Broadcasting Company on Jan. 13 credits the use of polymer in Canada’s new bank notes starting four years ago with a 74 percent drop in the number of fakes passed to retailers in 2015. 

Counterfeiting in Canada falls under the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Anti-Counterfeiting Bureau in Ottawa. The bureau reports that about 10 years ago it would receive up to 45,000 notes a month. In December 2015 it received 1,500, of which many were copies of easier to fake older-series paper notes.

The polymer counterfeits seen thus far are mostly of poor to medium quality. When touched, the feel is wrong. Most are made on paper, sometimes with a waxy or plastic coating to simulate the different feel of the new notes. Attempts to copy the advanced security features have been deficient. Among the schemes has been using glittery wrapping paper taped to transparent plastic strips to simulate holograms. Some forgers have gone so far as to buy holographic sheets from China, some of which have been seized at customs. In other cases the security window cut from real $5 notes was pasted onto $50 notes and $100 notes. 

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Robert Moyes, a 31-year RCMP veteran, told the CBC that Australia is seeing more sophisticated polymer counterfeits and that, hoping to avert future problems, the potential impact of 3D printers in counterfeiting is now being investigated.

The story revealed some other interesting facts: The $100 bill is the most commonly counterfeited polymer note, but among the older series it is the $20 note. The Bank of Canada estimates that 80 percent of its bank notes now circulating are polymer. 

And when the Canadian dollar drops in value, as it has recently, the RCMP sees more counterfeit U.S. Federal Reserve notes, which the Mounties say are both easier to copy and easier to pass since Canadians are not as familiar with the security features.  

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