Ottawa

Watch for fake U.S. cash, downtown businesses warned

As thousands of tourists descend on Ottawa for Canada Day 150 festivities, the association representing businesses along Bank Street is warning its members to handle U.S. currency with an extra caution.

Bank Street BIA urges merchants to be vigilant as tourists flood Ottawa for Canada Day

​Canada's new and more secure polymer bills mean criminals are increasingly turning their efforts to counterfeiting American bills, police say. (CBC)

As thousands of tourists descend on Ottawa for Canada Day 150 festivities, the association representing businesses along Bank Street is warning its members to handle U.S. currency with an extra caution.

The Bank Street BIA has sent a letter to shops, restaurants and other establishments encouraging them to be extra vigilant when customers pay with U.S. bills.

"You do see counterfeit thefts rise when there are special occasions such as Canada Day celebrations," said Christine Leadman, the BIA's executive director.
Christine Leadman, executive director of the Bank Street BIA, has warned members to be on the lookout for counterfeit U.S. cash.festivities. (Radio-Canada)

Counterfeiters may look to take advantage of employees' relative unfamiliarity with the foreign cash, especially on the busy holiday weekend, Leadman said.

"American bills are harder for us to recognize as counterfeit," said Leadman. "Criminals will always find an opportunity to use counterfeit bills."

Canadian bills harder to copy

Ottawa Police said Tuesday they have yet to see a spike in reported cases of counterfeit transactions, but confirmed U.S. money is involved in the vast majority of incidents that are reported.

"Most of the people trying to pass counterfeit money in Ottawa are using U.S. bills," said Sgt. Jamie Ritchie, ​head of the organized fraud unit.

"​Canadian money, now with the new polymer bills, we have not found anyone yet who has successfully been able to reproduce it. There are just too many security features on it," added Ritchie. 

Ritchie's advice for retail workers? Be wary of customers paying for a pack of gum with a $50 US bill.

"The biggest red flag is if someone is buying a very small item with a large denomination."

When a business does fall prey to a counterfeit cash scam, the owner has little to no recourse.

"Whenever there's a loss, it's an impact on the business. That's lost revenue for them," said Leadman.

With files from Guillaume Dumont and Jennifer Chevalier

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