The latest move by the Bank of Canada to reduce counterfeiting and save money was rolled out this week in Victoria.
Freshly printed polymer $50 bills, featuring an image of the Canadian Coast Guard ship **Amundsen, were unveiled at the Coast Guard station in James Bay on Monday, as part of a nationwide campaign that will see the paper version of the bills eventually removed from circulation.
Victoria police Det. Const. Greg Shaw, with the department's financial crimes section, said fake 50s haven't traditionally been a huge problem around the city – $20 bills are far more likely to be duplicated.
Nonetheless, he said, "It's (a) move toward securing the money supply, to a relative extent, against counterfeiting."
The new bills were available at financial institutions and some ATMs as of Monday.
The Bank of Canada's switch from using cotton-based paper to polymer – the lightweight plastic substance is expected to last two-and-a-half times longer than paper – was done both to reduce counterfeiting and lower production costs over the long term.
The new 50s, like the polymer 100s introduced last fall, incorporates such security features as a transparent window and special holograms, and are said to have improved durability over the 100s.
Farid Saji, a Bank of Canada analyst for the B.C.-Yukon area, said fast-moving technology used by criminals forced his employer to speed up plans for bringing in polymer bills.
"Nowadays we need to adapt more quickly to stay ahead of counterfeiting," he said.
As such, the Bank of Canada's goal is to see all new Canadian bills made of the polymer material by the end of 2013.
Despite the national bank's attempts to protect its currency, Shaw said staying in front of the criminal element is difficult. "It's kind of like when credit cards come out with security features, eventually someone will figure out how to counterfeit it. It's an ongoing battle."
The Bank of Canada has education programs for retailers about its products and works regularly with police and financial institutions on identifying counterfeit bills, Saji said.
But with the tourist season approaching in Victoria, Shaw still anticipates the usual problems with fake bills surfacing. Merchants get busier, he said, and staff hired for the spring and summer are often unfamiliar with how to check bills' authenticity.
With paper 50s gradually taken out of circulation and $20 bills likely next on the list, Shaw predicts a run on 20s over the next year.
"(Counterfeiters) are going to want to make as much money as they can in a hurry."