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The World Capital Of Counterfeit Dollars

Posted: September 5, 2013

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Making fake dollars is big business in Peru, where counterfeiters hire people to finish each bill by hand.

A policeman shows printed sheets of counterfeit bills seized by Peruvian police.

A policeman shows printed sheets of counterfeit bills seized by Peruvian police. AFP

This just in from the AP:

With its meticulous criminal craftsmen, cheap labor and, by some accounts, less effective law enforcement, Peru has in the past two years overtaken Colombia as the No. 1 source of counterfeit U.S. dollars, says the U.S. Secret Service, protector of the world's most widely traded currency. ...

Over the past decade, $103 million in fake U.S. dollars "made in Peru" have been seized — nearly half since 2010, Peruvian and U.S. officials say. Unlike most other counterfeiters, who rely on sophisticated late-model inkjet printers, the Peruvians generally go a step further — finishing each bill by hand.

We've reported a few times on counterfeit dollars.

In our show last week on the birth of the dollar bill, we talked about the huge wave of counterfeiting in the 19th century (including the fake notes from the Bank of the Golden Fleece).

A while back, we talked to Ma Young Ae, who used to live in North Korea, where printing counterfeit dollars is a government-run business. Ma helped the North Korean government export counterfeit dollars them to China

Also, we devoted a whole show to the one, family-owned company that for more than a century has made all the paper that real dollar bills are printed on. That paper is made mostly from cotton — and, apparently, it's one of the few things that separates real bills from fakes.

As the AP reports:

For all their skill, says Portocarrero, Peruvian counterfeiters' handiwork will always get tripped up by the infrared scanner banks used to authenticate currency. That, he says, owes to their continued reliance on standard "bond" paper, the variety used by consumers that is available in stores and that easily disintegrates when wet.

If they were able to obtain "rag" paper, the cloth type used for banknotes, all bets would be off, Portocarrero said.

"The day they get it and perfect the finish a bit more, (their bills) will go undetected."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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