Banks, money-changers and embassies across Phnom Penh are on the lookout for fake US currency, especially counterfeit $10 and $100 bills which have recently turned up in the city.
High-tech machines are unable to tell real from fake bills, said one Phnom Penh money-changer.
“The machines are not effective or reliable,” she said. “I use my expertise and feeling to judge whether the note is fake.”
Several money exchange businesses said they had seen about 10 fake $10 notes in the last three months.
An official at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh said the embassy is “concerned” about the fraud and has been distributing information to help tell real from fake money. The official said the embassy has given out brochures to businesses in Phnom Penh and four provinces, and has conducted workshops for local banks.
“Since late 2001, we have trained about 150 individuals [to recognize] the real currency,” the official said.
The workshops taught bankers about the security features of US currency, such as the watermark; the type of paper real US money is printed on, and how the currency is made, said a Mekong Bank official who attended one of the workshops.
The bank official said he learned from the workshop that some bills that appear to be fake are actually real, but have printing imperfections.
At the Thai Embassy, the problem has become severe enough to prompt officials to post a notice reading: “Due to counterfeit problem, the Visa Section of the Royal Thai Embassy could not accept the $US 10 bill with the signature of Robert E Rubin which is shown below.”
The notice then shows a copy of the fake $10 bill. Rubin is the former US treasury secretary whose signature is on all bills printed while he was in office.
Phuong Khinh Hoa, vice president of Canadia Bank Ltd, said the US Central Intelligence Agency had sent out an alert from its Bangkok regional office warning of fake $100 bills.
“But we did not receive any information from the CIA in Bangkok about this counterfeit $10 note,” Phuong Khinh Hoa said.