Security Technology

The Globe and Mail Investigates Canada’s Counterfeit History

As more and more Canadians find the new polymer $100 bill in their wallets and in their bank accounts – the Globe and Mail takes a look at the country’s recent history with counterfeiting.

The first time counterfeiting hit the radar of the Bank of Canada in major way was in the 1980s. In an effort to combat the up-and-coming technology of colour photocopying, the bank introduced a new series of banknotes with finer detail and new security features.

“Fine details in the face and hair of the Queen and former Prime Ministers depicted on the bills were too finicky for photocopiers to handle and appeared fuzzy in reproductions. A shiny gold metallic patch placed on each bill turned dark when replicated, further thwarting the forgers,” Globe & Mail writer Grant Robertson writes.

As technology advanced, Canada’s currency did not. Home computers became more affordable, graphics software was readily available, scanners were commonplace and ink-jet printers became the default for many households. Counterfeiting suddenly became easier than ever.

By the late 1990s, “the number of fake Canadian bills rose as high as 117 parts per million (PPM). Most G20 nations used 50 PPM as their benchmark to stay below,” says the Globe and Mail.

In 2002, 16 years after their last series was issued, the Bank of Canada introduced a new series to thwart the “computer-savvy do-it-yourself counterfeiter.”

Again, new security features were added to the note to ensure it would prevent forgeries. In particular, the new series featured a shiny holographic stripe down one side of the bill that shimmered in the light as well a watermark that appeared hidden but showed up when held to the light.

Four years later, in 2004, counterfeiters were learning to replicate the holographic stripe setting in motion the need to create a new series. In an attempt to create a product that was not only more secure but also a product that was more durable. For banks, the cost of producing new banknotes to replace damaged or used notes can be expensive. Polymer notes are typically two and half times more durable, according to the Bank of Canada.

In November, the Bank introduced the first polymer banknote in a developing series – a new $100 bill that contains several state of the art security features such as raised ink, a large transparent window that also contains a colour-shifting metallic portrait, hidden numbers in the transparent window that match the note’s denomination, transparent text, a frosted maple leaf window that also contains hidden numbers, among others.

Developing new banknotes in a timely fashion is one way for banks to stay ahead of counterfeiters.

“Counterfeiting rates have fallen steadily in Canada in recent years,” says the Globe and Mail. “The country now reports a parts-per-million ratio of below 40, which is finally in line with what most G20 nations consider acceptable.”

To read the full Globe and Mail feature, click HERE.

The Globe & Mail: “Funny money: How counterfeiting led to a major overhaul of Canada’s money


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