Beware! Rs 500/1000 note you receive may be fake

Counterfeit notes in the denomination of ` 500 and ` 1,000 have been flooding the Goa market, causing widespread concern among the law enforcement authorities and the banks.

Counterfeiters are adopting advanced technology to make fake notes and water stamps, say bank officials, who recently attended a Reserve Bank of India seminar on identifying fake currency notes.

For the past couple of years private and cooperative banks are regularly confiscating forged banknotes, even from their regular customers who lack the knowledge of identifying counterfeit notes.

In the past bank cashiers had to pay from their own pocket to the bank for accepting fake notes. "So perfect was the fake note," says Ms Mabel, a past cashier in a leading bank in Margao. "It fooled me." Not all banks possess the latest imported machines worth lakhs of rupees that count these currency notes and identify the fake ones.

Bank officials assume that all branches in the coastal belt are a conduit for tendering these fake notes. Now, with the tourist season around the corner banks are being more cautious as counterfeit currency peddlars come in disguise with tourists from countries with poor economies and high incidence of international crime.

Sometimes, outsiders intending to settle down or do business in Goa have been found possessing fake notes to open their accounts. Banks call such accounts as non-home transactions. "When we disclose it to them that a note is fake, they take it back, saying they will return it to the one who gave it to them. But probably they use such notes in their business transactions, which leads to their circulation in the Goan economy," said another banker.

The State Bank of India (SBI) Cash Officer, Ms Shubhada Mullay says to caution the common man in the art of identifying fake notes "we explain to them how to identify genuine Indian currency notes and show them the difference in the marking of the notes. So perfect are the fake notes that we overlook the differences."

The texture of the genuine Indian currency note is finer and thinner when compared with the fake. The security thread in the middle turns bluish in colour when the note is tilted up and down in the case of ` 1,000 and ` 500 notes and gives a plastic look appearance. If the security thread is scratched, it will peel off. It glitters like a chocolate paper.

The number on the right side, on the top, is smaller on the fake note. At the extreme left there is a diamond shape marking on the ` 1,000 notes and a round shape marking on the ` 500 notes.

Counterfeit notes had been a problem for years in Goa, but it was going unnoticed because the system had no ways to correct. "If we did, politicians would come in the way," said a private bank official.

According to a private bank official, "Each bank has its own sophisticated checking and identifying system and equipment, but when it comes to accommodating ` 1 lakh transaction at the cash counter, we separate the wheat from the chaff, meaning the fakes are identified."

Sources close to the police said the common man would find it difficult to tell if the notes were genuine. In an attempt to prevent the fake notes from circulating, Panaji police suggest that the banks should conduct an on-the-road education for fishermen, hawkers and small shops. [NT]