WHEN Lismore takeaway shop owner Robert (Big Rob) Bou-Hamdan was handed a $20 note last Friday night (April 20), at first he wasn't aware that it was counterfeit.
"I noticed it was a bit funny and took it out of the register," Big Rob said. "Outside there was a commotion at Cocktails nightclub. Someone had also tried to hand out a counterfeit note there, as well as at Mary Gilhooley's and The Night Owl.
"I usually check $100 and $50 notes, but this was only a $20 and it didn't feel very different to a normal $20 note. I noticed it was a darker red than a normal $20 note and it had a fold crease in it. Sometimes people get their money wet and it looks a bit darker, but I didn't notice the clear window didn't have a hologram in it until later because the shop was very busy."
When Big Rob tried to rip the note, he was able to tear the paper and realised the note was phoney and contacted police.
Detective Inspector Greg Moore from Lismore Police Station said that in the past week, $260 worth of counterfeit $20 notes had been handed into police by local business owners, including taxi drivers. The notes are now under forensic examination and police have launched an investigation in a bid to identify who is responsible for producing them.
"I would encourage everyone to be extra vigilant when handling their money and if you do notice something odd or that doesn't look quite right, please contact us immediately," Det Insp Moore said. "The major things to check are the notes' texture and clear window; the circulated notes are clearly more papery and can be ripped, whereas normal notes are more plasticky. The counterfeit notes are also smaller than the originals."
Det Insp Moore advises people to hold the $20 notes up to the light and check there is a hologram visible in the clear plastic window.
"The fake notes have a plastic window taped onto the paper to try to emulate the original," he said. "If people are still unsure about the texture or the hologram, the note should also be a bit fluoro under a UV light.
"They are a reasonable quality counterfeit note and we can understand how people could be fooled by them, especially if they are handed over at night-time."
Dect Insp Moore said it was unusual to find counterfeit $20 notes in Australia, but "it's a timely reminder for everyone that people can attempt to counterfeit anything".
"We are fortunate in Australia that our currency is plastic," he said.
"In England and the United States where notes are paper-based, they have a much more serious problem. The US has been targeted for years by terrorists who want to devalue the currency, and counterfeiting is being investigated all the time.
"In Australia, we have confidence in our currency. We all rely on it and we don't want to see people out of pocket."
Anyone with information that might assist investigators is urged to contact Lismore Police Station or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.