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Nov 3, 2015
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In a perfect world, every consumer would have enough money to cover their needs, and be the proud owners of all-original goods. There's nothing like the genuine article, you know. But reality tells a different story—one full of fakes and fakers.

No, people, we ain't just talking about people. Or the countless low-priced counterfeit products you see at your friendly neighborhood tiangge. We're talking about actual legal tender, not the kind you played with as a kid, or Monopoly money. They're everywhere, and odds are we've all handled fake currency and didn't even know it.

Counterfeiting is known as the world's second oldest occupation, after all. And trust that there will always be people looking to make a quick buck (or make dupes out of us all). While we can't apprehend these fakers ourselves, we've scrounged up everything we need to know about the real deal—in this case, real Philippine pesos—so you won't end up on their list of suckers.


THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE...

...money-maker. For the Philippines, that would be the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, or Central Bank of the Philippines). According to The New Central Bank Act (or Section 50 of Republic Act 7653), the BSP is the only organization that can mint and print 'em coins and bills. Try creating your own, and the BSP will have the power to search and jail you.

For the curious cats out there: as of June 30, 2015, there are 23.31 billion coins worth P26.75 billion and 2.67 billion bills worth P771.83 billion in circulation. Thanks, BSP!


WHAT YOU'LL SEE IN THE NGCS

Like previous BSP bills, the New Generation Currency (NGC) bills you've been seeing in circulation in recent years have been given their own set of security features to protect against counterfeiting.

A downloadable PDF from 2010 written by BSP officers Maja Gratia Malic and Nenette Malabrigo lists all of the security features bestowed on these bills, divided into four levels. Level I is composed of features that can be seen by you and me with a simple visual and tactile inspection such as:

- Embossed prints – You should be able to feel these raised prints upon touching any NGC bill. According to the BSP, "this can be felt over the words 'Republika ng Pilipinas', denominational value in text, signatures, and value panels particularly the one located at the lower right corner of the obverse."
- Asymmetric serial number – Unique serial number given to each bill, with the first letter prefix in the smallest print size and the last number in the largest size.
- Security fibers – Those random red and blue fibers that can be found all over the bill. They're there for a purpose; it's not a quirk.
- Watermark – Secondary image of the bill's portrait and denominational value. Tilt the bill slightly to one side and and you'll see it.
- See-through mark – Written in Baybayin; found at the bill's lower right corner, above the number value.

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Levels II to IV, on the other hand, are made for more detailed inspection by the pros. Level II security features like microprinting and fluorescent features can be seen with UV lights or magnifying lenses. Level III is only for BSP use with its "hidden or covert security features," while Level IV calls for specialized procedures and equipment, and will come into play for authenticity problems and/or court cases.

For more specifics on the NGC bills, click here here.


SPOT THE FAKES!

Discerning the real from the fakes sure sounds easy, but for most folks, it's not. Hell, counterfeit money can even find their way into ATMs—and straight into the hands of unsuspecting bank clients.

The most basic checks can be done by sight and touch. Keep the Level I security features in mind: you should be able to see the watermark, security threads, etc. after a simple once-over, and some tilting and rotating. The colors should also be vivid and uniformly printed, and there should be no printing glitches whatsoever.

Since our paper currency is printed on thicker paper, and with the bills given embossed prints, the bills should be slightly sturdier than standard paper sheets, and you should be able to feel small rough ridges as you run your finger(s) over them. BSP's Malic, in an interview with Korina Sanchez back in 2013, refers to this as the 'salat' test: if the bill feels too smooth and refined, it ain't legit.

Another handy tip from Alexander Tagum of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group's Anti-Organized Crime Unit (CIDG AOCU): get a UV light pen so you can see if the bill in question has Level II security features.


FOUND A FAKE, NOW WHAT?

The BSP has issued clear guidelines for those who have received counterfeit bills. Business owners should give the customer or holder a temporary receipt, which will include the holder's name, address, community tax certificate (CTC), and passport number (if holder is a foreigner). Other details, like the date of receipt of the counterfeit bill(s), denomination, and so-called bill serial number or coin series, would also help. Have the holder countersign this receipt; remember that he/she can say no, in which case you'll need to indicate his/her reason for refusing as well.

Then give the questionable currency to the BSP's Currency Issue and Integrity Office (CIIO) within five working days, either personally or through a BSP regional branch or banking institution. Bigger cases can be escalated to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other agencies.

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As for the counterfeiters? Those caught and proven guilty will be sentenced under the Revised Penal Code. Title Four, Chapter One, Sections Two and Three outline the penalties and prison terms clearly enough for makers of fake coins and bills, respectively.

In short: Keep it real, boys and girls.


ONE MORE THING...

Just thought we should mention it; think of it as your trivia of the day. That old Filipino 'tradition' of writing on paper bills (like someone's phone number, or whatever note or insult you had in mind for the recipient)? That's intentional currency defacement, and it's illegal. You're in violation of the Anti-Mutilation Law (a.k.a. PD 247), and you can get in hot legal water via the BSP CIIO. 

GIFs via Nintendolife.com, Aspoonfulofspitup.com
Images via Philstar.com, Thephilippines.ph, Tsikot.yehey.com
Screencaps via Lawphil.net

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