Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bad Money

While eating my last meal in Rome, I paid with cash and received, in turn, a 20 Euro bill in change. The following morning, after buying a train ticket to the airport with said 20 Euro bill, I was flagged down by the man from whom I bought the ticket-- on the train no less-- and despite the language difference, I could tell he was none too pleased.

The problem? My 20 Euro bill was a fake.

Fortunately, I was able to scrap together legal money to get myself to the airport. I was intrigued, though-- if this was in fact fake, I wanted to make sure. So I tried to use it at the airport to buy some food and, again, it was refused. I feel pretty certain I've got a counterfeit 20 Euro bill in my possession.

One other possibility-- the reason for refusal, given both times, was that it was missing the wide vertical holographic strip down the right side. A photo of the bill is here. As the bill was printed in 2002, the first year of Euro currency (some could have been printed in 2001 in anticipation of release, I do not know, but the currency came into circulation in 2002), the bill's design could well have been changed from 2002 until now. As such, there may have been a period of acceptance for both bills-- strip and strip-free-- followed by the banning of the old bill.

A colleague of mine notes, though, that the best time to counterfeit is probably right near the release of a new bill, since bill-takers would probably be less familiar with the intricacies of the new paper currency. In response to this fact, however, perhaps they'd have heightened awareness to a higher probability of a fake?

Morally, how do I feel in my transactions I described? I don't feel bad at all about the first; I thought it was real. I had suspected by the second that it might be fake and wanted to test its legitimacy; unfortunately, paying at a food bar is not a certain test of the validity of the money. In my mind, had it been rejected (as it was), then I feel I've got a pretty good case for possessing a fake bill. If it's taken, however, that would seem like proof to me that it wasn't fake, but it could be that it was counterfeit yet accepted anyway. So I can't observe for myself the truth of the bill, and as such, can't tell if I've ex post taken advantage of the merchant with which I was trying to deal.

Dana-- correct me if I'm wrong, but you have to surrender or will have confiscated any counterfeit cash you possess at any time, right? For example, if you try to pay (knowingly or unknowingly) with a fake $20 at McDonalds and they deem it counterfeit, don't they confiscate it and call the cops and you do not get your $20 replaced?


danarch said...

I believe that is the case my good man. Basically it now sucks to be you - that is the US laws though; maybe the EU is more forgiving.

Justin M Ross said...

I'm curious, did the server in Rome know it was a counterfeit? Apparently it is easy to spot. If it was left as a tip for this server, they probably saw a foreigner who would be less likely to spot the fake, and thus a way to unload their bad currency.

Matt E. Ryan said...

That is the 20 Euro question, though I think if you keep your assumptions solid then the server is acquitted of any intentional wrongdoing either way. If he knew it was a fake and gave it to me to unload a bad note on an unwilling foreigner, then that would be unbecoming...but then again, if he knew it was a fake, he wouldn't have accepted it in the first place. If he didn't know he ever had one, then he's just passing it forward-- I can't be mad at him any more than I can be mad at myself for trying to use it at the train station.

I'm assuming he's not the one introducing the bill into which case, all bets are off.