When the supermarket clerk takes a 10,000-colón bill, eyes it suspiciously and holds it up to the light, the effort is more than ritual. Fake bills are a fact of life in Costa Rica.
The Banco Central is moving to create a new series of highly secure bank notes, but so far only bills in the denominations of 1,000 colóns, 2,000 colóns and 20,000 colóns have been issued.
The counterfeiter’s choice is the 10,000-colón note, which is worth about $20 U.S. dollars. The 20,000 colóns note has a number of security features, but perhaps the greatest security comes from the fact that most merchants and certainly all taxi drivers hate them. Circulating the bill is difficult even if the bank note just came from the Banco Central.
The older 1,000-colón and 2,000-colón notes will be phased out at the end of this month, so there is no point in faking them. And the new bills printed on a plastic material are challenging to even the best crooked craftsman.
Sunday Fuerza Pública officers in two different locations came upon fake bills. In La Uruca officers detained a man with the last names of Rivera Acevedo with 23 fake 10,000-colón bills, they said.
In Los Chiles, the Policía de Fronteras detained a man and a women. The 35-year-old man with the last names of Urbina López carried a fake single bill, but his companion, a 21-year-old woman with the last name of González had eight in her possession, police said. This was the second set of arrests by the frontier police this year involving fake bills. In May the force confiscated 19 fake bills.
Colombia has always been considered a source of excellent fake bills from many countries, but there are indications that many of Costa Rica’s fakes come from Nicaragua.
Computerized scanning and laser printing make copying a bill easy, and in the low light of a bar or some other establishment, passing the fake is easy.
That is why Central Bank officials are anxious to put the new 10,000-colón bills on the street. The bank also has a program of training for merchants involved in retail and aseries of handouts that show the elaborate security features of the new bills.