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Counterfeit money: Still going strong

Joan Goodchild | Dec. 8, 2009
Counterfeit money printing activity continues in several global hot-spots. Chad Wasilenkoff, CEO of banknote-maker Fortress paper, talks about where and how counterfeiters are still successfully plying their trade.

FRAMINGHAM, MA, US, 4 NOVEMBER 2009 In the month of October, U.S. law enforcement officials arrested people in North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky for trying to use counterfeit money. Earlier this year, the U.S. Secret Service seized US$8.4 million in fake U.S. currency that was being printed in Peru.

Though government statistics place the total amount of U.S counterfeit currency in circulation at less than 3 per cent, Chad Wasilenkoff says technology has allowed counterfeiters around the world to become more sophisticated and those percentages are much higher in other countries. Wasilenkoff is CEO of Fortress paper, which manufactures security papers such as banknotes, passport and visa pages. Wasilenkoff spoke with Joan Goodchild, senior editor at CSO, a sister publication of CIO and Computerworld magazines, about the global state of counterfeiting in 2009.

CSO: Fortress makes several products that might be targeted for counterfeiting. Are the concerns different for each product?

Chad Wasilenkoff:
They differ for each product and also for each country. Some countries have a high threshold or tolerance for counterfeiting. They recognise they aren't getting the absolute most premium product and that they are not implementing every single security feature so they know it will result in a higher level of counterfeiting. But it's a cost-benefit analysis. They recognise that many more security features would be just that much more expensive. So whether its banknotes, visa stickers, passport pages or something else, from country to country, there are variations of how many security features they want to put in. It all comes down to cost-benefit analysis.

What countries have a low tolerance for counterfeiting and how does that play out in their currency?
In the banknote world, it is sort of a general industry acceptable standard to have approximately 100 counterfeits per one million banknotes. That is a typical rate for the Euro and that is what the U.S. targets for the dollar.

About five years ago Canada went through a counterfeiting crisis and their counterfeit rates went to about 1,200 pieces per million. They quickly had to change some of the security features. They couldn't change the banknote entirely because it typically takes seven or eight years to design a banknote. So, they had to change the paper supplier because they were not able to make high enough quality banknote with the water mark and woven thread and some of the other security features. They had been getting their paper from a mill in Quebec and canceled that and went with a mill in Europe. So the banknotes now look somewhat similar but since they've changed their supplier, they have their rates back in line and last I heard it was now at about 80 pieces per million.


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