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Beware! Fake notes on the increase

Fraudsters have shifted into counterfeiting low denomination notes where there is less scrutiny, fresh data from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) shows.

The number of fake Sh500 and Sh200 notes submitted to CBK by banks more than doubled last year as those of Sh1,000 dropped by a quarter, indicating less surveillance on small notes.

“Counterfeit activity increased marginally with the number of counterfeit notes increasing by 5.3 per cent from 150 counterfeit notes in the year to June 30, 2013 to 158 counterfeit notes in the year to June 30, 2014. However, in value terms counterfeits decreased by 13.95 per cent,” said CBK in its annual report.

The notes reported by the CBK are only those that have been repatriated by banks deceived to accept them as genuine.

The number does not include those captured by businessmen and bank officers, who mutilate them.

SLUM AREAS

However, they are taken to be a representative sample of the fakes industry.

A bank that forwards a fake note to CBK is charged a fine equivalent to five times the value of the note.

“Most of the fraudsters operate in slum areas and busy markets where there is less scrutiny, especially on notes such as the Sh200 ones,” said a cash management officer in a bank who sought anonymity as she is not allowed to speak on behalf of the lender.

To protect tellers, banks are now using intelligent cash-counting machines that detect and reject fake notes based on their weighting.

There is heightened caution on handling of the Sh1,000 note among businessmen, M-Pesa operators and bank officers due to a huge exposure.

The CBK received 88 fake Sh1,000 notes compared to 118 notes in 2013. There were 27 fake Sh500 notes compared to 10 pieces a year earlier and 34 Sh200 notes up from 17 in June 2013.

ECONOMIC SENSE

Often, fraudsters do not fake small notes as it does not make economic sense due to the cost of production and risk involved. There were nine fakes of the Sh100 note and none for the Sh50 note.

The value of the counterfeit notes was Sh109,200 compared to Sh126,900 a year earlier and Sh1.6 million five years ago.

The bank has been participating in agricultural shows across the country teaching the public on security features embedded on genuine notes. At times, CBK may receive confiscated counterfeits from the police for examination.