Counterfeit Franklins

Orlando is being flooded with counterfeit US currency, mostly $100 notes, a friend in US federal law enforcement says.

The problem has become so serious that the Orlando office of the US Secret Service has a growing backlog of cases it has not started to investigate officially yet.

A very large percentage of the counterfeit $100 notes originate in Venezuela, a local branch manager in Orlando with one of the three top US banks says.

Over the past year, as Hugo Chavez shut down the parallel (permuta) market and asserted state control over all financial transfers, Florida’s tourism capitals of Miami and Orlando have been hit with a fast-growing flood of counterfeit US currency arriving from Venezuela.

“The other day three Venezuelans came into my branch with $10,000 between them in $100 notes and $5,000 were counterfeit,” the branch manager says.

“They had a very difficult time understanding that the bank was legally obligated to seize the counterfeit currency and give them nothing in return, not even copies of the reports that the bank files with the Secret Service,” the branch manager adds.

I found out personally about the counterfeit currency problem in Orlando very recently when we did the family theme park tour (a.k.a. blisters, backaches and busted budgets).

We arrived in Orlando with $4,000 in $100 notes purchased in Caracas, visited our local US bank branch to grow our savings a bit, and $1,200 were counterfeit bills that were confiscated immediately by the bank.

A report on each bogus bill was forward the same day to the US Secret Service, and two days later I chatted by telephone with the “duty officer” at the Orlando office of the Secret Service.

The agent confirmed that the 12 bills taken from me by the bank were counterfeit, but said that an investigation would not be opened for “a couple of months or longer… we’re backlogged.”

The bank branch manager said that the recent increase in counterfeit US currency taken from Venezuelan nationals in the Orlando area is unlike anything he has experienced in 17 years of retail banking.

I asked the branch manager, “But what about the special marker pens that detect counterfeit notes?”

These pens are used in Venezuela by lots of folks buying US currency on the black market to confirm that the bills they are purchasing are the real deal.

“Useless,” he replied. “They don’t work.”

About Caracas Gringo

Representing less than 0.00000000001515152% of the world population as of 31 December 2011.
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7 Responses to Counterfeit Franklins

  1. island canuck says:

    Where did you buy these dollars?
    From someone you know?

    I had 2 guests from Brasil arrive a few months ago who changed money in Maquetia & had 2 $100 bills switched on them for false bills.

    The quality is quite good although they didn’t pass the “pen” test.

    The easiest way to see the difference is hold the bill up to the light with the back of the bill facing you. There is a watermark on the left side. The drawing of this watermark was very crude in the false bill. If you have a bill you know is good to compare it with it’s quite obvious.

    The other thing was the lines at the top of the bill were blurry when compared with a real bill.

    CG Reply: Bought the 12 bogus bills from a single source in Caracas, the assistant administrator of a very well-known business publication.


  2. m_astera says:

    Excuse the dumb question, but how does one tell if a US $100 is counterfeit?


  3. Jose Marcos says:

    The special marker pens are able to detect if the paper is cotton, nothing else.
    If fake banknotes are made using cotton paper, then they will be validated as good by the marker.
    It is unthinkable to suggest that USD Banknotes are printed in Venezuela’s Bureau of Printing an Engraving (Casa de La Moneda). If this were to happen then these bogus Banknotes will not be fake but the real thing.

    Most Counterfeits come from Colombia.Sometimes by using old low value real banknotes from several countries. Banknotes are washed to erase the inks and this substrate is used to print the fake USD.
    When you check with the “magic” pen, it looks good.

    If you buy USD from an unknown source you should look for security elements that tell you if a banknote is fake or real.


  4. Neil says:

    De la Rue printed Venezuela’s currency, I believe, prior to 2000. By then, our very own Casa de la Moneda (mint) was operating ( in Maracay. If you believe Venezuela’s Chávez-controlled government is from top to bottom an unscrupulous malandrocracia, then follow the money.


    • Someone else says:

      You have overestimate Chavez’s government capabilities. US banknotes are printed on a special paper (mixing cotton and linen), purposely made for them by an American company. Allegedly, It has taken North Koreans several years to produce a reasonable counterfeit. Most counterfeits circulating in Latin America, though, are carefully produced, albeit at a low scale, by Colombians artisans. The best counterfeits use small denominations US banknotes (i.e. $1 or $5) in order to obtain the genuine feel. The US Treasury has been slow changing the banknotes, thus facilitating counterfeiters. The current $100 banknotes were due to be replaced next February, but apparently there was a huge mistake during the printing run, that left 30% of the run voided.

      The issue around the “wrong”prefix is widespread in mid South America (Peru, Bolivia) as the counterfeiters tend to repeat serial numbers (and hence prefixes) It is not unusual to see signs in banks and “cambios” advising that banknotes with prefix XX (I don’t recall which pair of letters) are not accepted.

      Finally, it is natural that under the current forex regime, counterfeiters redirect their products to the Venezuelan market. This is just simple a by-product of the absurd controls.


  5. Zandor says:

    When I arrived in Asuncion three years ago I came armed with $100 bills purchased from my bank in the US.

    I took two to a Cambio and was astounded to be told that they would not accept them due to the fact that they had bad prefix letters.

    So there I was, walking around in downtown Asuncion with two $100 bills in my pocket and I didn’t enough money to buy a beer.

    I quickly found a street changer and he changed one bill but at a 10% discount.

    I checked out my other bills when I got back to the hotel, and found about 40% had “bad” prefix letters.

    The problem could never be properly explained. Some people said it due to N. Korea, or Thailand, or Nigeria, or evil forest spirits.


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