Note the difference, stay alert

The table was intricately decorated with foods and beverages of different kinds — it didn’t take Radhika (name changed) and her companions long to devour the feast.

But when it was time to pay, the group received a mild shock. Some of the currency they had handed out were fake notes.

The well-camouflaged notes had entered Radhika’s purse without her knowledge and she was baffled as to how they got there. What surprised her was not the falsity of the currency itself but the form it came in. While we are accustomed to finding fake Rs 500 and Rs 100 bills in our wallets — most people are wary when a large denomination note is handed to them casually — it is relatively unusual to find a false Rs 50, Rs 20 or
Rs 10 note.

Maya, an engineer, faced a similar problem. “I handed a Rs 10 note to the bus conductor but he immediately returned it to me, telling me it was a fake. Then he asked me where I got it, and when I said from an auto driver, a smile appeared on his face. He said that I shouldn’t trust autorickshaw drivers because they conveniently hand out these notes, stuck in between real ones.”

When she was handed such a note again, she refused to accept it. “I wasn’t sure whether I should report him or not but I did refuse to accept the note. It was clearly a fake one but he kept insisting it wasn’t. He finally handed me another note, which, after checking, I accepted,” she adds.

Radhika also got her notes the same way. “I commute by auto to and from work. Unfortunately, I don’t check the notes that I get as change from them. Recently, when I had gone to an eatery and paid the bill, the owner returned with the two Rs 10 notes, saying that they were fake. I must say I was zapped.” On taking a second look, she and her friends could see the difference. “I did not know that I could get taken for a ride like this by an autorickshaw driver,” she recounts.

Fake currency notes flow into our economy in crores annually. And though they could easily destabilise the economy, people turn a blind eye to them, either because of greed or lack of knowledge.

Most people are unsure of how to even distinguish a fake note. But the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has given clear guidelines on how to identify such currency.

Features like the Mahatma Gandhi watermark, a security thread, latent image, microlettering, intaglio printing, an identification mark, fluorescence, optically variable ink and a see-through register are some ways to find the imposter.

Sameer, a shopkeeper, says that the notes feel “thicker” when they are fake. “I immediately return such notes,” he says. Ravi, an autorickshaw driver, also says that he comes across such notes, but rather than circulating them further, he “tears them apart”.

“Sometimes we can’t help but get such notes; when people get down at signals or are in a rush, we don’t check what they give us. It’s only at the end of the day that we realise these notes have no value. There’s nothing you can do with them except tear them apart.” If a person knowingly circulates such notes, they are likely to be fined or/and imprisoned.

While some fake notes are clearly distinguishable, others have most of the features that are required by the RBI and get caught only by people with a keen eye.

Now, even ATMs hand out such notes and have earned the trust of people. Abhishek Goyal, Deputy Commissioner of Police (CAR), says that the RBI has its own procedures to detect fake currency in ATMs, and only after that is it handed over to them.

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