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Watch out for fake 500-peso bills, banks warn

Crude counterfeits created with a photocopier are apparently fooling some victims

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Are they real or fake? Phony 500-peso bills are circulating in Yucatan.

Merida, Yucatan — Counterfeit 500-peso bills are apparently circulating in the area.

Fake copies of the new 500-peso bills — with Benito Juarez and not Diego Rivera — are being accepted by unsuspecting merchants, according to the news agency Sipse.

Scammers are avoiding formal stores and commercial chains, instead targeting street vendors and others who aren’t trained to tell when they are handed funny money.

In a bank, for example, a 500-peso bill would be put under a special light to verify its authenticity. Big stores arm their cashiers with special markers that detect a fake.

The phonies have a bright hue because they are bathed in a wax or varnish to confound victims who would otherwise know a color photocopy when they see it.

The Bank of Mexico recommends that if you suspect the authenticity of your currency, do not try to unload it on someone else. You could face a fine and up to 12 years in prison for passing counterfeit bills.

Neither should you destroy it or save it. Take it to a bank branch, where an employee will send it to the Bank of Mexico, which serves as the country’s federal reserve.

But the teller won’t trade it for a real note. Victims of counterfeit fraud have no recourse with banks.

A real peso can be held up to the light, and a holographic thread will be visible in the paper.

According to the Bank of Mexico, between Jan. 1 and Sept. 6,231,848 counterfeit pesos were seized nationally that’s an average of 934 a day.

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