Travellers warned after jump in fake yuan notes seized in HK

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 May, 2008, 12:00am

Travellers have been warned to watch out for bogus yuan banknotes during the Olympics, following a 60 per cent increase in seizures in Hong Kong in the first four months of this year.

Police figures show that 3,700 counterfeit yuan notes - most with a face value of 100 yuan - were discovered by the end of last month, compared to 2,318 during the same period last year.

The number of seizures was expected to exceed 10,000 by the end of this year, Chief Inspector Michael Yu Shi-cheung said.

Meanwhile, the number of fake notes found in other currencies had declined, he said.

Chief Inspector Yu said the rise in bogus yuan notes was largely a result of the currency's appreciation.

'More people are using yuan notes [when they travel to the mainland] and some people also get cheated after doing a transaction at a favourable rate on the black market,' he said.

A Commercial Crime Bureau expert said officers had received no reports of customers withdrawing fake yuan from local banks and other institutions.

Instead, most cases reported by banks and currency exchange bureaus involved travellers who had visited the mainland.

'Restaurants, massage parlours, karaoke bars and even change from taxi drivers - those are hotspots where travellers receive fake notes during transactions,' Chief Inspector Yu said. Most victims did not realise they were holding fake notes until returning to Hong Kong and trying to exchange yuan for dollars.

As more travellers were expected to visit the mainland during the Beijing Olympics, the chief inspector said more fake yuan banknotes might appear in Hong Kong.

He said the bogus yuan notes discovered in Hong Kong were of average quality and could be identified when people rubbed them carefully - because of the paper quality.

'Travellers are advised to use credit cards when they have to make big transactions, and they should get some smaller bills from local banks before they set off [to avoid receiving large amounts of yuan in change],' he said.

Lawmaker James To Kun-sun, vice-chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, said a surge in counterfeit yuan notes could be expected following the influx of mainland visitors to Hong Kong.

'Training at the retail level to identify the banknotes is the only way to reduce the circulation of fakes in the city,' he said.

'But it will be very difficult for travellers to avoid [getting fakes] on the mainland.'

Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Yu said high-quality, fake HK$1,000 notes discovered in March last year were now found circulating in the city only rarely.

They were described as the best counterfeit notes ever seen in Hong Kong and hard to detect even under ultraviolet light. Chief Inspector Yu said police were still being notified about a few of the fake notes being found every month, but believed they were only leftovers.

False picture

The percentage increase in counterfeit yuan notes found in Hong Kong in the first four months of this year is: 60%