Think small is the new mantra of currency forgers. Wonder why? Machines meant for detecting fake currency notes are installed at bank branches and certain retail outlets. But these machines, as a routine, are never used to verify the genuineness of currency notes of the denominations of Rs.50, Rs.20 or Rs.10. And the racketeers cash in on the lack of scrutiny to distribute fakes.

The RBI has issued guidelines to the banks on detection of fake currency notes. Guidelines do not talk about reporting currency notes of denominations below Rs.100, making it easier for the banks to hush up the matter.

Fake notes of lower denominations had been detected in the past. The total number of forged notes in circulation in the below Rs.100 category is left to one’s imagination as no official account is available except for the few cases registered by the police. Quite a few such cases have reached various courts of law in Kerala, but the percentage of fake ones coming to the notice of authorities are few and far between.

Though the forgers are unable to replicate the watermark and intaglio or other key security features of the original currency notes, absence of rigorous scrutiny enables the forged notes to change hands.

A senior official of RBI said a few cases of fake currency notes of lower denominations had come to the notice of the apex bank, but the official failed to explain the magnitude of the problem. The value of circulated counterfeit currency notes in the category is negligible in the economy, according to the official. The paper used by RBI for printing currency notes is imported and is not available in the market, the official added.

Scanning and printing on colour printers are the two main ways adopted by forgers. With machines that can replicate documents in colours which look identical to the original, getting printouts of currencies is not a difficult task. Colour balance and brightness can be adjusted in high quality machines to produce life-like images.

A senior official of an international company engaged in marketing various electronic products, including colour copiers and printers, said parts of currency notes had got stuck up in a machine, which were detected during maintenance work in Kochi recently. The incident hints at the possibility of currency counterfeiting operations being carried out by means of colour copiers.

However, Alok Bharadwaj, EVP, Canon India, told The Hindu over phone that his company’s colour copiers have an inbuilt mechanism to detect currency notes. The copy will have lines across the printed copy.

Even in the case of certificates, the product will have a ‘copy’ mark. High resolution colour copiers also have embedded features to store images of copied documents, making it possible to be tracked down, if required.

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