Police have arrested 20 people, including four high-school teens, for possessing or trying to pass counterfeit CI bank notes, in the past eight months, it was revealed at a fraud prevention seminar this week.
Members of the Financial Crimes Unit said fake notes are being retrieved by police daily.
Police believe all the notes they have recovered were made in Cayman, while all the US notes they had confiscated were imported.
Detective Sergeant Michael Montaque said four of those arrested were high school students, or of school age, while two others were local university students.
‘We pick up counterfeit currency every day of the week,’ he said.
Investigations are continuing on the cases, police said, and no charges have been laid.
Detective Constable Adrian Neblett said that from 1 January to 31 May this year, police had recovered CI$4,400 and US$440 counterfeit notes. Between December 2003 and December 2007, they have seized CI$22,000 and US$10,000 in fake currency.
‘Between 2003 and 2007, the Financial Crimes Unit has seen a steady increase in the circulation of counterfeit notes in the economy,’ DC Neblett said.
He said all denominations of CI currency had been found in circulation, while 100, 50, 20 and 10 US dollar bills had been found.
Most faked currencies are passed at liquor stores, money transfer agencies, supermarkets and bars, and are also used in bank deposits and rent payments.
Damian Kwiatkowski, Caribbean regional manager of De La Rue Currency, which manufactures all Caymans’ bank notes, said almost all of fake CI bills were produced by desktop publishing technology.
He urged staff handling money to familiarise themselves with the images on the notes, like the beach on the back of the CI$10 bill, the boat on the $5, or the old Cayman house on $50.
DC Neblett advised members of the retail and banking community at the seminar jointly organised by police and the Chamber of Commerce, what to do in the event that they are passed a fake note.
‘Do not return it to the passer. Delay the passer if possible and make a note of his description, if he has any companions with him and the licence plate number of his vehicle. Don’t bring it to his attention that the note is counterfeit,’ he said.
And he warned: ‘The possessor is the loser, you need to be vigilant at all times.’
Staff was further advised to write their initials and the date on the white border of the note, so it can be used as evidence. They were also told to place the note in an envelope rather than in plastic, which could remove any DNA on the note.
‘Investigations are such now that we are doing DNA testing on note,’ DC Neblett said.
Many bank, retail and service staff use detection pens to identify fake notes, but the police, as well as a US Secret Service agent who addressed the seminar, warned that these were not foolproof.
Secret Service agent Scott Bradley said in the vast majority of cases where someone reported they had been passed a fake note, their first warning sign was it felt funny.
But touching a note is also not foolproof as it can be bleached. Some counterfeiters bleach one dollar bills and print $100 notes over them. Only by examining the notes, and knowing what to look for, will cashiers and staff handling money be able to spot counterfeits, explained Agent Bradley.
He added that all counterfeiters needed nowadays to make a fake note was a computer, a scanner and a printer.
Under Cayman law, knowingly possessing forged bank notes can lead to a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
Wil Pineau, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce said about 250 people had registered to attend the two-day fraud prevention seminar.
Attendees were also given tips on how to spot and prevent fraud involving credit cards and travellers’ cheques.
Anyone finding fake notes should contact the Financial Crimes Unit on 948 8797.