Paper Money

New generation of printers blamed for counterfeiting

Australia’s polymer $50 note has become the target of choice for counterfeiters, according to a report in that country.

Images courtesy of Reserve Bank of Australia.

Counterfeiters appear to be targeting the polymer notes of Australia using new commercial printers, according to news reports in that nation.

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The first polymer bank notes were issued in Australia in 1988 for the nation’s bicentennial, and the country switched over to the plastic substrate completely in 1996. The new material was hailed for its better resistance to counterfeiting, and Australia had low rates of it for years. Now, says the Feb. 4 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia is one of only four countries where counterfeiting rates are increasing (the others are New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden). In 2003 to 2004 the rate of counterfeiting in Australia was about five notes per million, whereas it is 17 per million today.

The reason, says the Herald, is newly developed commercial-grade printers that can print any color on any material, including plastic, and can be bought for the equivalent of $55,000 (U.S.). The paper reported that one counterfeiter was operating with three of them, one owned and two rented, out of a budget beach resort in Queensland.

The $50 note is said to be the most profitable denomination to counterfeit since it offers the greatest possible return with the least risk of being detected. It comprises 47 percent of all notes in circulation, and 80 percent of all fakes.

In 2016 and 2017, preliminary figures from the Reserve Bank of Australia reported the detection of 25,491 bogus bank notes. Of that, 20,749 were $50 bills. There were also 4,302 $100 notes, 320 $20 notes, 91 $10 notes and 29 $5 notes. Of the total face value of $1,475,105, the $50 note accounted for $1,037,450.

After spending 37 million Australian dollars ($29 million U.S.) on 12 years of research and testing, the Reserve Bank is supposed to release a new $50 in late 2018. It will be the third issue in a new series.

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