Counterfeiters Busy In Trinidad, Of­fi­cial Says Fake Bills Ram­pant

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – One day af­ter a San Juan mar­ket ven­dor re­port­ed that he was paid with a coun­ter­feit $100 bill at the Cen­tral Mar­ket in Port-of-Spain, a source in the Bankers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Trinidad and To­ba­go (BATT) is say­ing coun­ter­feits are much more ram­pant than the pub­lic knows.

The source pre­sent­ed four coun­ter­feit $100 bills dur­ing an in­ter­view yes­ter­day and said every day, banks across the coun­try have been seiz­ing fake $100 notes from cus­tomers.

When the BATT source was asked how many coun­ter­feit bills the as­so­ci­a­tion had col­lect­ed since the new poly­mer $100 note was in­tro­duced last De­cem­ber, he said, “I can’t say, I wouldn’t be able to give you a fig­ure, I just pulled out what we got for this week or to­day. This seems like a nov­el­ty to you but we are see­ing it every day.”

He said a re­cent ‘change of pol­i­cy’ at the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice’s Fraud Squad meant the as­so­ci­a­tion was al­so not re­port­ing coun­ter­feits to the unit.

“Be­fore, it used to be that the re­quire­ment was for the bills them­selves to be sent to the Fraud Squad, the Fraud Squad would do the test­ing of the bills and con­firm what is coun­ter­feit and what isn’t. But it seemed like for many years the Fraud Squad had a lot of those bills pil­ing up and a lot of them had to go to the Foren­sic Sci­ences Cen­tre and I don’t know what they did but even­tu­al­ly, they stopped it.”

Now, he said, the as­so­ci­a­tion is left to fig­ure out what to do with the bills they col­lect from cit­i­zens who have been scammed with the fake bills.

“Whether we send them now to the Cen­tral Bank or what that still has to be re­solved.”

How­ev­er, a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer whose man­date is to in­ves­ti­gate white-col­lar crime told Guardian Me­dia yes­ter­day that the law is clear on any­one caught with coun­ter­feit bills.

“Any­one caught in pos­ses­sion of a coun­ter­feit bill or ut­ters a forged bill can be ar­rest­ed by any po­lice of­fi­cer and charged.”

He said if coun­ter­feit bills are tak­en to the bank, there are two things that could like­ly hap­pen.

“The bank can lat­er con­tact the in­di­vid­ual if they have de­tect­ed coun­ter­feit bills in their ac­count. How­ev­er, if it is a large amount the bank can con­tact the po­lice di­rect­ly who can then ini­ti­ate an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and reach out to the per­son whose bank ac­count con­tained the coun­ter­feit bills,” he said, adding as far as he is aware there has been no change in any pol­i­cy by the Fraud Squad with re­gard to how banks are sup­posed to deal with coun­ter­feit­ing cas­es.

Two of the bills pre­sent­ed to Guardian Me­dia yes­ter­day were sim­i­lar to the one giv­en to the mar­ket ven­dor – print­ed on a high gloss ma­te­r­i­al, with repli­cas of a trans­par­ent win­dow in the top left cor­ner of the bill and an X in Braille at the bot­tom right. These two fea­tures are in­clud­ed in the re­al poly­mer note to en­sure coun­ter­feit­ers could not du­pli­cate it. The hue on the fake bills was al­so dark­er than the orig­i­nal and the per­fo­ra­tion on the let­ter X in Braille is al­so not as pro­nounced as the orig­i­nal.

The oth­er two bills were print­ed on pa­per but al­so in­clud­ed repli­cas of a trans­par­ent win­dow in the top left cor­ner and an X in Braille on the bot­tom right. None of the four coun­ter­feit bills glowed un­der an ul­tra­vi­o­let (UV) light when put to the test – a ma­jor in­di­ca­tion they were fakes.

The BATT source said if some­one does not have a UV light or is still un­sure whether bills they re­ceive are re­al, they can al­so tell by look­ing at the bill.

“The clar­i­ty of the bill is dif­fer­ent, if you look at the crisp­ness as well as the colour clar­i­ty, they dif­fer marked­ly from the gen­uine bill – that is the first thing that stands out to me.”

Guardian Me­dia reached out again to Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young. Young, who on Mon­day said the pub­lic needs to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with the bill in or­der to spot coun­ter­feit bills, was told of the in­for­ma­tion from the BATT source and asked, “Based on this, is the min­istry tak­ing any spe­cif­ic steps to in­form or warn the pub­lic of these coun­ter­feit notes in cir­cu­la­tion?”

The fol­low­ing ques­tion was al­so sent to his What­sApp, “The as­so­ci­a­tion says there was a pol­i­cy change at the TTPS Fraud Squad which means the as­so­ci­a­tion no longer goes to the unit to re­port and hand over coun­ter­feit bills. Can you speak to that pol­i­cy and whether you, as min­is­ter, were in­formed of that change?”

Al­though all the mes­sages were “Read” by 7 pm, Young did not re­spond up to press time.

In re­sponse to ques­tions sent to the Cen­tral Bank yes­ter­day by Guardian Me­dia, Nicole Crooks, of the Bank’s Ex­ter­nal Re­la­tions de­part­ment, said the bank will be re-launch­ing its “Know Your New $100 Poly­mer Ban­knote” cam­paign and book­ing ads in print me­dia to sen­si­tise the pub­lic on the fea­tures of the bill.

Crooks said, “Fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the $100 poly­mer note in De­cem­ber 2019, the Cen­tral Bank is aware of pe­ri­od­ic post­ings on so­cial me­dia and in the tra­di­tion­al me­dia re­gard­ing at­tempts at forg­ing the $100 poly­mer ban­knote.”

Crooks said the Cen­tral Bank will al­so be look­ing at oth­er ways to reach the wider pub­lic au­di­ence, in­clud­ing ven­dors.