Fake money circulating in Westboro, deli owner warns

The owner of a Westboro deli wants businesses and shoppers to keep an eye out for counterfeit money.

David Neil of the Piggy Market says counterfeit $20 bill used in shop on the weekend

David Neil of the Piggy Market in Westboro displays a fake $20 bill, left, which came to his store on the weekend. The bill on the right is a real one. (David Neil/Facebook)

The owner of a Westboro deli wants businesses and shoppers to keep an eye out for counterfeit money.

David Neil, of the Piggy Market on Winston Avenue, says someone used a fake $20 bill over the weekend, when the store was busy.

"There's actually quite a few tells on it if you're not in a rush," said Neil. 

One key difference is the feel isn't quite right, he said. 

"The size is different [and] it's got a slightly greener tint to it. Queen Elizabeth's head has a different look to it [and] the maple leaf is not centred in the hologram."

Neil reported the counterfeit bill to Ottawa police on Thursday.

A post he wrote on the Food and Beverage Industry Ottawa Facebook group garnered several responses from other people who had been taken by fraudsters. 

Counterfeiters often try to circulate their imitations when businesses are busy and distracted, according to the Ottawa Police fraud unit.

So it's important to take some extra time to feel the bill and look at the security features, such as the raised ink and the holograms, police said.

A comparison between a genuine and fake $20 bill under a microscope. The genuine $20 on the left has crisper features. The counterfeit bill on the right is pixelated and blurry. (CBC)

While Neil is only out $20 he knows there are more phony bills in circulation because his local bank branch showed him one they received this week. 

Counterfeit money use down

As for counterfeiting overall, the Bank of Canada says it has trended down significantly since the introduction of polymer notes a decade ago. 

According to Nish Vairavanathan, an analyst with the Bank of Canada's currency section, counterfeiters aren't producing great fake money. Recognizing a couple of distinct features on the polymer bills should be enough to tell the two apart.

The biggest year for fakes was 2004 when $13.5 million in phony money was reported. In 2018, the most recent year where figures are available, there was $1.9 million in fake cash passed around, said Vairavanathan. 

The most popular fakes are $100 and $20 bills, he said. 

The Bank of Canada has these tips for retailers dealing with suspicious cash during a transaction:

  • Politely refuse the note and explain that you suspect that it may be counterfeit.
  • Ask for another note (and check it too).
  • Advise the person to check the note with local police.
  • Be courteous. Remember that the person in possession of the bill could be an innocent victim.
  • Inform local police of a possible attempt to pass suspected counterfeit money.

In addition to Canadian currency being counterfeited, the Ottawa police fraud unit says fake U.S. bills have also been circulating in the area.


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