Times are changing for fake ringgit coins

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 September, 2005, 12:00am

Malaysians are rushing to unload their wallets of M$1 coins amid a counterfeiting scare and the central bank's decision to withdraw the tainted currency in favour of notes.

Small traders, businesses and even some banks not only refuse the coins but since last week have been unloading their ringgits on unsuspecting customers.

But the public has wised up and is not only refusing to accept the coins but also trying to pass them on.

'I bought a toothbrush and got eight $1 coins change,' Maria Abdullah said. 'They were unloading on me. Now I have to find a way to get rid of them.'

About six out of 10 are said to be counterfeit. Syndicates have reportedly made up to one billion since the 1998 Asian financial crisis.

They were generally accepted, with people joking they were lighter and shinier and rejected by vending machines. But acceptance plunged last week after a Chinese daily reported that the central bank was quietly recalling them and replacing them with notes.

The report sparked a rush to off-load them and the situation worsened when the bank confirmed this week the coins will no longer be legal tender from December 7.

Although the bank said all coins could be exchanged at any bank for notes, some banks are checking the coins and returning the counterfeits.

'Nobody wants to be left holding counterfeits, which must be handed over to the police,' a bank clerk said. 'Many coins are in piggy banks and parents are naturally worried.'

The Sun daily called it 'coin-fusion', saying some banks were accepting the coins while others rejected them or charged a M$2 fee for every 100 coins exchanged for notes.

It is also feared the syndicates will counterfeit the M$1 note.