Of the many things that China is known for, one of them is most certainly bootlegging. Sometimes it works to our smalltime benefit by introducing us to almost familiar films and imitation iPhones, but only trouble can be bought when China’s system begins circulating bootleg bills.
Recently, counterfeit money in China has reached a point where not only are people being fooled by fake cash, money-checking machines are too, as Chinese ATMs appear to be distributing bogus bills to honest civilians.
Earlier this week Yahoo! Japan ran an article about how the use of counterfeit bills worth 100 yuan (US$16.30) is increasing. People who handle a lot of money on a daily basis, like taxi drivers and store clerks, are probably accustomed to this issue and can identify a fraudulent bill with ease, but to the unsuspecting layman, counterfeit cash could pass into their hands without them ever giving it a second thought. Lately, the quality of counterfeits has gotten so good that even the machines meant to weed out fake money can be fooled into accepting them.
This would be less of a problem if the Chinese banks believed in it. According to Yahoo!’s article, a group of Japanese exchange students withdrew 3,000 yuan (US$490) from an ATM in China. They did not realize it right away, but of those 30 bills, seven of them were fake. However, when the group approached the bank with their wholly disheartening situation, the bank responded along the lines of “For an ATM to distribute counterfeit bills is unheard of,” and dismissed their claim.
This was not the only instance. A second group of students encountered a similar problem and was met with the same dismissive response, being told, “There is no way that we have counterfeit money in our ATMs.”
Admittedly, the existence and general circulation of counterfeit bills in a quickly developing country like China is not surprising in and of itself, but the thought that such bills have gotten mixed up in the banks’ system without any form of acknowledgement is a bit frightening. How unfair that these people must play an ATM the way one would a slot machine, hoping for a best case scenario of getting back the same amount of money that they first put in.