Bank of Canada aims to thwart counterfeiters with updated $20

TORONTO — The Bank of Canada says enhanced security features will do a better job of preventing criminals from using IT equipment to create counterfeit versions of the next $20 dollar bill.

Banks across the country will

be issuing the new note after Sept. 29, but at the official unveiling of the design Wednesday officials highlighted four elements that will also be appearing on the most recent $100 notes. These include a holographic stripe, a watermark portrait, windowed colour-shifting thread and a see-through number.

According to figures from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, more than 100,000 counterfeit $20 dollar bills were found in circulation last year, just part of an estimated $3.2 million in value that was illegally passed through merchants.

Charles Spencer, the Bank of Canada’s director of currency research, said the increased sophistication of reprographic technologies have boosted counterfeiting in Canada, but the security features in the $20 note are intended to be recognized with little more than the naked eye.

“”We want to stop counterfeit at the checkout,”” he said. “”This is something you should be able to see and touch, although of course you could use scanning technologies.””

The holographic stripe includes a series of maple leaves as well as several “”20s”” running vertically along the left-hand side of the note. The three-dimensional metallic surface of the stripe will change into a rainbow of colours if it is tilted, Spencer said, and small numerals will appear in the background.

Dominating the note is an updated portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, and a second, ghost-like image of the photograph will appear just to the right of the real thing if the note is held to the light. This embedded watermark can be seen on both sides of note, Spencer said.

The windowed colour-shifting thread, meanwhile, was jointly developed by the Bank of Canada and the National Research Council, Spencer said. Appearing on both sides of the note, it resembles a series of metallic dashes that shift from gold to green when held under the light. Finally, irregular marks on the front and back of the note turn into the number 20 when it is held up to the light.

Sgt. Moshe Gordon, counterfeit coordinator in the RCMP’s criminal operations unit, said even those with high-end IT equipment would be hard-pressed to duplicate the note’s security features.

“”Technology has sure made our job a lot easier, but it’s also made it easier for the bad guys,”” he said. “”That being said, I have rarely seen a really good counterfeit note out there.””

Spencer agreed. “”Those (counterfeit) notes should not have been passed,”” he said.

A handful of vendors, including Woodbridge, Ont.-based Vision Currency Technologies, make equipment that allows banks and other firms to scan the bill and project it onto a four-inch high-resolution black and white monitor, then compare what they see with a chart of actual notes. Barry Kruger, Vision’s vice-president of sales, said he could not discuss how his products would take advantage of the new note’s enhancements for security reasons.

“”We will read specific security features in the bills that black light cannot read at all,”” he said. “”There are some things added on it that only Vision will detect.””

Spencer said the Bank of Canada’s emphasis will be on training merchants and the public about how to check currency without the benefit of technology.

“”We would never recommend just sticking it under an ultraviolet light,”” he said. “”If you tilt it, hold it to the light and run your finger across it, that’s three (features) you’ve checked right there.””

The new note will also carry previous security features, including raised ink and microprinting.

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