Tech firms partner to combat Canada’s counterfeiters

Vision Currency Technologies, a Canadian company that makes scanners to detect counterfeit money, has teamed with an American vendor to expand the reach of its product.

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based eFunds Corp. is in the business of ATM deployment and service, as well as related electronic payment management services and data analysis. Outside the U.S., the company operates in the U.K., India and Australia, but its partnership with Vision will primarily address its Canadian customers.

“”We have a large base of both independent and chain retail customers across Canada. We provide them ATMs in our normal business line. One of the things that we had noticed over the last couple of years is that counterfeiting of currency in Canada is a very large issue,”” said Peter Zoumboulakis, vice-president of eFunds ATM division in Canada, based in Markham, Ont.

According to the Bank of Canada‘s latest statistics, the number of counterfeit bills increased from an estimated 130,000 in 2001 to 210,000 in 2002. However, the actual value decreased from $6 million to approximately $5 million due to a shift towards smaller denominations of bogus bills.

“”It really is a major problem right now for retailers,”” said Zoumboulakis. “”They’re struggling with the fact that they want to service their customers and sell products and take their money — including the 50s and 100s — but they are concerned with the proliferation of counterfeit currency.””

Counterfeiting has increased in Canada and around the world because it has become much easier to do it, said Mike Stockfish, Ontario regional director for the Bank of Canada. “”For someone who’s inclined to produce a counterfeit bank note, the technology is more accessible to allow them to do that. . . . The price point for what you need to pay for that improved technology has come down quite dramatically,”” he said.

Vision Currency’s detection device, the Vision 900, uses a combination of ultra-violet (or blacklight) and infrared technology to sort the real from the fake.

“”The machine scans the bill and projects it into a four-inch high-resolution black and white monitor,”” explained Anthony Flagiello, director of sales at Woodbridge, Ont.-based Vision. “”From there, we give you a chart with every single domination that Canada has. You basically match the picture in the monitor to the chart.””

Flagiello said that UV-only scanners have been in the market for some time, and counterfeiters have adopted methods that can sometimes fool them. “”Our machine actually scans the note for specific security ink implanted inside the note,”” he said, adding that the Vision 900 can scan currency from 38 other countries.

Vision’s existing Canadian customer base includes Canadian Tire, McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s and Royal Bank of Canada‘s cash processing centres, said Flagiello.

RBC spokesperson Chris Pepper said, “”We have a very thorough, exhaustive and extensive program in place to combat counterfeit currency,”” but refused to elaborate further for security reasons.

The Bank of Canada issues new bills regularly in order to stay a step ahead of counterfeiters. The bank has issued a $5 and $10 in its “”Journey”” series, distinct from the older “”Bird”” bills. A new $100 will be previewed on Jan. 28, with a view to putting it into circulation on March 17, and an updated $20 and $50 will follow within a year.

Stockfish said the bank’s aim is to train money-handlers and the public at large to spot ersatz cash with the naked eye.

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