Police have seized 172 fake banknotes with a face value of more than HK$83,000 (US$10,500) from a Hong Kong taxi driver suspected of scamming passengers by using the counterfeits as change. Each of the bogus HSBC banknotes looked genuine but was marked with the word “practice” to indicate they were training tools for bank staff or members in financial institutions. Similar paper props were available for sale online on shopping platforms in March, prompting police to issue an alert to the public. On Wednesday night, officers from the commercial crime unit carried out an operation on Chung Yan Road in Tung Chung after receiving reports from three passengers who said they were scammed with the fake money after taxi rides earlier this month. The commuters – two men from the mainland and a foreign woman – were cheated of HK$1,700 in total. Scammers cheat jobseekers out of HK$3 million as cases jump At 9pm that evening, a taxi driver, 38, was arrested and police seized 12 HK$500 notes, seven HK$100 bills and three stolen credit cards in his backpack stored in the vehicle. The driver, surnamed Shum, was taken back to his flat in Yat Tung Estate where officers discovered another 153 HK$500 banknotes. “As the seizure was relatively large this time, we do not rule out that the suspect may have been involved in other similar scams,” Inspector Chong Tsz-sing from the Commercial Crime Bureau said. We do not rule out that the suspect may have been involved in other similar scams Inspector Chong Tsz-sing He added that the driver used the same tactic – placing a fake HK$500 note among change returned – every time a customer paid him with a HK$1,000 bill. Shum was arrested for using and possessing bogus banknotes, as well as theft. He was detained for investigations. The size, colour and pattern of the fake notes resembled real banknotes, down to printed details such as the bank name, amount and serial number. But on the right corner of each bill were the words “practice banknote, sample, circulation forbidden” printed in orange. Police urged members of the public to call the 24-hour hotline of the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre if they suspect they were victims of scams involving counterfeit money. Under the Crimes Ordinance, it is an offence to make or distribute counterfeit banknotes. The maximum penalty upon conviction is 14 years’ imprisonment.