Nobody laughs at Canada's plastic money as much as Canadians do. They also curse it from time to time because the bills stick together with some kind of sadistic static cling. They are slippery to hold and are very unforgiving if they are bent or folded.
However, They are giving counterfeiters a very difficult time to reproduce with any kind of success.
The RCMP estimate the number of fake bills passed on to retailers in 2015 dropped by 74 per cent compared with the previous year. That doesn't mean people have given up trying to copy Canada's banknotes — it's just that even their best attempts to make fake cash are falling well short.
Regina Police Const. Scott Wolfe hasn't seen much counterfeit currency since the Bank of Canada introduced polymer money four years ago, but he did have a case last fall.
"When we first touched the bill you could tell it wasn't the polymer feel. It was paper. We could see they had cut out the security window from a real $5 bill and pasted it to a $50 and $100 bill," said Wolfe.
The face in the hologram didn't match the face on the bill and the edges were uneven. Even so, the money was successfully passed on to retailers, perhaps in a dimly lit bar or sandwiched between two authentic notes.
Wolfe said people passing counterfeit bills often pay for an inexpensive item with a high-value bill in order to get lots of change in authentic currency.
All bills turned over to police across Canada, eventually end up at the RCMP's National Anti-Counterfeiting Bureau in Ottawa.
About 10 years ago, when counterfeiting was at its height in Canada, Moyes the lab would receive up to 45,000 notes every month. In December, the director said, the lab received 1,500 bills and many were copies of older-series paper notes, which are easier to fake.
"It's significantly more of a challenge to the counterfeiter to produce these [new banknotes] and the simulation of the security features has been very poor
Most of the counterfeit polymer bills are printed on paper. Some used paper with a waxy or plastic coating. A few bills look passable from a distance, but up close are too shiny and slippery.
One $50 bill OK at first glance — but the other side is completely blank.
"You only need to pass it once and the cashier is not going to turn [the bill] over," said Moyes.
Glittery giftwrap and a roll of tape
Several $5 bills at the bureau feature strips of glittery wrapping paper taped to transparent plastic strips in a crude attempt to simulate security holograms. Others go a step further by buying holographic plastic sheets from China. Shipments of the holographic sheets have even been seized by the Canada Border Services Agency.
All of the bills received by the bureau are examined by specialists under microscopes and different sources of light.
When a technician puts a genuine $50 bill under a high-powered microscope, the image of an eyeball comes up on a large computer screen. It's easy to see several security features, including the fine detail of raised red ink from an engraved plate. Even though that feature can only be seen under a microscope, it's something you can feel under your fingertips or by running a fingernail across the bill.
"It's got life to it. There's a tactility," the director said, adding that just the "feel" of a bill is one of the best ways a regular person can detect a fake.
When the genuine $50 bill is replaced under the microscope with a fake, it appears muddy on the screen.
Other bills are examined under three different sources of light. In the case of one $100 bill, a copy of an older-series paper note, the counterfeiter had done a respectable job adding ultraviolet features. Some retailers use UV boxes to test bills. This bill likely would have passed such a test, which is why the Mounties recommend looking for more than one of the security features on higher-value bills. They figure that with modern technology, eventually, counterfeiters will figure out how to make a bill that will pass the tests. But for the time being, we have pretty well shut down one very lucrative area of crime. Who knew our funny looking plastic money would protect us. I think we took enough ribbing about our Loonies and Toonies.