Shanghai HSBC ATM gives American fake notes

Hong Kong branch snubs American humiliated by wad of counterfeits from its Shanghai ATM

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 7:34am

When an American businessman withdrew 1,200 yuan from an HSBC ATM in Shanghai in April, he had no idea all the 100-yuan notes were counterfeit.

And when he discovered the problem last month and informed his Hong Kong branch, the bank refused to reimburse him or even investigate.

Craig Briggs, 52, withdrew the cash in Shanghai Pudong airport, at an ATM he used regularly because he believed it was secure.

The Hong Kong-based businessman spent some of the money with no problem, then took a trip to America, meaning he didn't need to use the money.

But last month in Guangzhou when a taxi driver and a McDonald's restaurant refused to accept them, alarm bells sounded.

"I was really embarrassed. I was in my suit and the McDonald's was really crowded.

"All the people were looking at me. I was the only foreigner there and I [had the] fake money," he said.

He was lucky to have a genuine 20-yuan note and some coins, just enough to pay for the meal.

Briggs says his notes had not been swapped by the taxi driver or the McDonald's employee, as he watched them both closely.

The counterfeits looked and felt like real renminbi, but the wad shared just two serial numbers and on one note the usual "100" was missing from a corner.

But when he informed HSBC he believed the bank had given him fake notes, a teller at the Bonham Strand branch in Sheung Wan directed Briggs back to the Shanghai branch.

"Back in Hong Kong, my HSBC branch confirmed the notes as counterfeit," Briggs said. "HSBC Hong Kong's remedy for the situation was to pass the buck. This suggestion would surely lead to a substantial commitment of time and trouble, only to end up in the same place - a wallet full of fake RMB. Isn't this 'the world's local bank'?"

Briggs expected the incident to spark concern at HSBC regarding the problem of fake notes. "I want to be able to go to China and travel with confidence that the currency I am getting from their machines is genuine. Now I have a [big] doubt about that," Briggs said.

He added that the woman in the Hong Kong branch merely assured him he could get genuine yuan notes in Hong Kong; she did not reply when asked how to get genuine notes on the mainland.

In the first half of this year, Hong Kong police seized 2,215 fake 100-yuan notes; they seized 4,070 last year and 4,884 in 2010.

An HSBC spokesman said no other customers had made similar reports and advised Briggs to report the incident to the police.

"Our ATM system is robust. Procedures are strictly followed and multiple checks are in place," the spokesman added.

According to the Crimes Ordinance, having or using counterfeit notes is punishable by up to 14 years in jail.