News @ AsiaOne

Fake cash from China ATM? More likely your money's been switched

In the scam, a dishonest merchant will exchange a large bill from a distracted customer with a fake, and claim that the customer was the one who handed over a fake. -AsiaOne
Chew V'Ming

Sat, Feb 18, 2012

When you make a withdrawal at an ATM, the last thing you expect to get would be counterfeit notes.

This was apparently what PR professional Ann Chen got saddled with at an ATM in a Shanghai airport yesterday (Feb 17). However, Chen is more likely the victim of a crafty 'switch' scam.

The 30-year-old, who has been working in China for the past two years, withdrew 1,000RMB from a machine located between gates 46 and 48 at the Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport airport. The ATM is operated by a commercial bank headquartered in Shanghai.

Chen only realised that her 100RMB notes were bogus when she tried to pay for train tickets in Guangzhou, in the final stage of her trip from Shanghai to Hong Kong.

The cabby who took her to the Guangzhou train station had claimed that her 100RMB note was fake and asked to examine her other notes, recalled Chen. She was not carrying any other cash other than the 1,000RMB she had withdrawn in the morning.

Chen said, "I found him annoying as I was late for a meeting and I just wanted to get off the cab. But he took his time and looked at my notes, one by one."

The cabby might have switched out the bills for counterfeit ones at this point. This is a common scam in China and it is even more prevalent at night when passengers cannot see what the cabby is doing clearly.

In the scam, a dishonest merchant would exchange a large bill from a distracted customer with a fake, and claim that the customer was the one who handed over a fake.

Chen will contact the Shanghai bank about the matter on Monday, but she is pessimistic about the chances of getting her money back. She said, "All I can do is report this and hopefully there will be no other victims."

Counterfeit money is a significant problem in China, already notorious for its thriving industry of knockoffs and fakes. Many shops are equipped with detectors and it is routine for cashiers to scrutinise large bills carefully before accepting them.

How to avoid getting fake money in China

1. Only exchange money at the bank or hotel.
2. Avoid giving large notes, like 100RMB bills, to cabbies and vendors.
3. Learn how to identify fake notes in China: Fake notes have poorly rendered watermarks and no hologram. Holograms on real notes change colours when you move it around.
4. Use credit or debit cards as much as possible.

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