Fake Currency notes have been in the news quite a lot recently, and I have to admit that there have been some questionable notes I’ve received, though no one has ever called me on them when I spent them. But the scary thing is that I actually got some of them from ATM machines. This came to mind as there was an article in the Times of India yesterday about it. The article pointed out that most banks don’t have machines for identifying counterfeit notes. This isn’t surprising for small rural branches, but even bigger banks don’t always have them.

Photo by Wen-Yan King (Creative Commons)

When you hand someone a 500 or 1000 rupee note, they will usually hold it up to the light to look for a watermark, but there are several other features. The Reserve Bank of India has a website with information on how to detect fake currency, and I highly recommend taking a minute or two to study it. Click on the tab that says “KNOW YOUR BANKNOTES” to get a list of the various denominations. The higher ones seem to be the most commonly counterfeited, so most people don’t look too closely at the others.

The metallic thread is the first thing to look for. I saw a note once that didn’t have it — it looked like it had been produced on a photocopy machine. Well, it probably had been. The transparent panel and watermark are two other things to check. Some of the features are printed in raised ink (intaglio), so you can feel them when you run your fingers over the note.

If you get stuck with fake banknotes, you’ll be out of luck if someone spots them. Obviously, you can’t just take them to the bank and exchange them for good ones. So get in the habit of checking the notes, even if you get them at a bank or ATM. It’s what smart Indians do.

This Zero rupee note is obviously not meant to be taken for a real note. It’s just a clever way of battling corruption. “You want a bribe? Sure, take this!” Brilliant!

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