Monday, August 21, 2006

Chinese Counterfeit Scam

This should be regarded as a serious travel warning for people traveling to China. There are shit loads of fake local currency being passed off to unsuspecting tourists in China every day. And this paper once in your possession can not be exchanged with a bank for real money. In fact you would probably face some interrogation if you tried to claim exchange, or worse yet get caught passing the counterfeit cash at a shop be it mistakenly or on purpose. The first time we were hit was by a cheeky cab driver who took advantage of a confusing situation where 2 of my clients were both trying to pay a high cab fare of about RMB 150 (the fare from the airport). So the cabbie took the two RMB 100 notes that were given to him and switched them with two fake notes while my clients were talking to each other. He showed them that the corners of the bills he was given were both torn and that he could not accept the money. Now parked on a street or at a building, two visitors in China are obviously not going to be able to argue with a Chinese cab driver so to find a quick resolve they just took the money and replaced it with two other bills from their wallet, possibly making sure they were not torn. Here are the two bills that were passed off to my clients. It is not clear from these pictures that the corners are torn but as you can see they both have the same serial number!!!

That is so cheeky. Not only did the cabbie have the balls to pass off fake notes, he managed to take advantage of ignorant tourists and pass off two bills in one shot. Magnificent I tell you. I say this scam is rampant because I too was hit a couple of days ago while taking a cab from the airport after picking up my cousin. I was already weary for any fares that are over RMB 100. I was watching the man as he took my money but I must have lost focus because he must have managed to slip a fast one on me. He returned my money to me with a clean tear in the corner. I tried to argue and even got upset and my cuz accused me of being drunk. In the middle of the bloody day! I have been known to tussle with the occasional cab driver when I have a few drinks but once again in this case I was fairly warranted. However, I have watched enough Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan films to know just how far I can push a Chinese cabbie before having my ass kicked so I eventually bit the loss and moved on.

Most times when you pass a RMB 50 or RMB 100 note here in China, it is quickly scanned by the recipient by a machine or by hand and sight. The locals are well aware of what bills are circulating. People have tried showing me numerous times how to spot the fake but I just can not get it. You are supposed to feel Chairman Mao’s collar with your thumb for some groves or texture. It all feels the same to me. None the less, I do try and look sharp by going through the motions when I am passed a bill. Since then there have been no instances. Until a few days ago when a cabbie passes me this set of RMB 10!!! That’s like 15 cents. How much could the fucker be making on a RMB 10 note? As you can see they both also have the same serial numbers again.

They were passed off to me early in the night as change from another cab driver. I was a bit suspicious because they were new notes and although in circulation they had this new design on them. And although there were no tears in this money, the next cab I got into refused to take them as payment. He obviously knew something. I figure these cabbies, or who ever else plays this game, goes out to some gansta and buys say a RMB 100 note for RMB 50. This way every time he passes off a fake bill he makes RMB 50 he makes a clean 100% profit, or at least 50%. Sounds like a pretty good business to me. But the fact that they are even making fake RMB 10 notes just goes to show how widespread the counterfeit currency trade in China is. People are ready take risks like this just to make 5 cents. But RMB 10 notes would move more regularly and a lot faster, so if you look at volume and turnover I guess the lower value notes could generate more of a profit.

Last week this scam went up to a whole new level. My old man was aware of the taxi con when he traveled up north to some small town last week on business. He was at the airport there on the way back and my Dad was approached by what he described as ‘a very well dressed man in his late thirties. He looked Arabic and he had an extremely beautiful woman on his arm who was also wearing very nice clothes’. I of course asked what he meant by nice clothes. Was she all slutty wearing a mini skirt and a tight top squeezing ample cleavage together in a juicy bundle? He gave me a long disturbed look before he informed me that she seemed very classy and all though she did make eye contact with my father and his associate that was alluring; she was in no way making any obvious sexual advances. The man who approached them in fact introduced him self and his wife as being Aribic. He was very enthusiastic as he spoke to my father and his friend. He stood extremely and uncomfortably close to them as he spoke and told them how was looking forward to an upcoming trip to India with his wife. Once he confirmed my father was Indian he begged for my old man to show him some Indian currency. He claimed he wanted to show it to his wife. My Dad said he had none on hand but the man begged them to please check their wallets just in case. There were suspicious and after some refusal they some how pulled out their wallets and took a peek. I am quite convinced it was through the request of the young damsel who wanted to see Indian money. It is not strange for man to succumb to such requests made by a beautiful woman so I do not judge their actions at this point.

The Arab man looked into their wallets as they did and noticed some $50 bills in one of them. He quickly asked if he could change a hundred for two $50 bills. It was hard to say no as the man already saw they had the change so after much speculation of the $100 bill that was handed over the exchange was made. They parted ways as the Arab man made his way outside. After about 10 minutes the man and his wife found them again and ran over holding a $50 bill. He showed them that the bill had a small tear along the top/center of it. But my old man knew very well that these were brand new bills so he told the Arab dude that they did not have any more $50 bills to exchange it for. He hounded them to please check their wallets again but they managed to walk away with out giving in. So basically, this guy was trying to pull of the scam with a fake $50 bill. And that means this scam is not just limited to locals but also international con men and international currency. He must have been ready for whatever currency he could get out of a persons wallet. This time they were lucky, had I been in the same situation I would probably have been too busy eyeing the chick to notice anything was amiss.


Shan said...

Damn man - that sounds bad, especially when the cab drivers try to start shit cause you caught them out.
Sounds like this is a really serious problem over there.

IndCoup said...

plenty of scams in Jakarta too though. Everywhere probably. Be careful and trust noone when it comes to money.