Can YOU spot the fake in this picture? Bikie gangs flood cities with phoney $50 notes - but new technology makes them harder to detect than ever before
- A record number of fake bills have been picked up across three states in the past six months
- Police say outlaw motorcycle gangs are now increasingly focused on different types of drugs and counterfeit money
- Elaborate printing presses are believed to be head-quartered in western Sydney and northern Queensland
- The majority of the notes are $50 and investigators admit 'there is a lot of it happening across many local commands'
- Queensland Police busted a $2million counterfeit ring across state borders but that hasn't stopped the flow
The differences are subtle enough to easily fool an untrained observer.
But a large quantity of fake money, predominantly $50 notes, has flooded Australian cities as outlaw bikie gangs turn to counterfeit money after a major police crackdown on robbery, drugs and firearms.
Authorities believe elaborate printing presses are behind a much bigger flow of illegal money, which is being used in conventional consumer purchases but also to pay for drug deals between revival gangs, sparking reprisals.
Senior NSW police have told Daily Mail Australia the burgeoning multi-million-dollar operations are a 'serious concern'.
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Can you pick the fake? NSW Police have released a comparison of $50 bills to Daily Mail Australia, with the version at the top being the genuine note and the bottom is a counterfeit version picked up in a recent raid
Queensland Police tracked a Bandidos bikie-gang inspired counterfeit ring south across the NSW border and made this seizure of almost $2million worth of fake money on that state's south coast last year
Police recover evidence during weekend raids on the premises of an outlaw motorcycle gang in WA
State police have been working closely with the Australian Federal Police as they crackdown on the new wave of criminal activity by outlaw motorcycle gangs, including counterfeit and drug rings
Authorities are now uncovering the phoney money on a regular basis across New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, as well as the ACT.
In Sydney alone, there are more than 50 suburbs now on the police watch list after illegal currency was reported, mostly in the western suburbs, but the fraudulent flow of bills stretches south to Bargo and Robertson, north to Manly and Umina and through to Bondi in the eastern suburbs.
Similarly, in Victoria, the most recent investigations have located the fake cash across Stawell, Ararat and Ringwood.
With police in Queensland 'winning the war' on outlaw bikie gangs in the areas of theft, counterfeit money is fast becoming the weapon of choice for criminals, alongside the drug trade.
A massive $2 million bust last year by Queensland Police at Warilla on the NSW South Coast did put a slow on the production and flow of counterfeit dollars, according to Detective Superintendent Mick Niland, the head of the state's anti-bikie gang task force.
The real deal. Printing presses at Australia's official producer, Note Printing Australia Limited, which is located on a 26 hectare site at Craigieburn in Victoria, 25 kilometres north of Melbourne
Qld Police Det Supt Mick Niland says the collaboration between states and the AFP is proving a success in the chase for the counterfeit crime syndicates. While at left is an example of one of the fake bills picked up by Victoria Police recently when they arrested three people at Stawell 'following a prolonged investigation into the circulation of counterfeit money'
Sealed bundles of legitimate $20 bills are produced by the official printing hall in Craigieburn in Victoria
More than 20 properties were raided across Queensland, leading to the arrest of 18 people alleged to have links to the Bandidos bikie gang.
'It certainly slowed them down, we seized a lot of the cash they'd produced and a lot of their assets,' he told Daily Mail Australia.
'We've had a few seizures since in the thousands of dollars but now they're looking at other areas again.'
'The National Anti-Gang Squad is a very important part of us targeting and dismantling these criminal gangs, it's very much united and committed in the fight.
'And it's right across the country. It is a multi-pronged approach with unprecedented level of co-operation, we are of course working in closely with the AFP to dismantle these crime gangs.
'We will be relentless in our efforts against them regardless where they are operating in Queensland.'
It is so serious an issue, the Australian Federal Police Currency Team and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) 'have entered into a working agreement for the administration of counterfeit currency'.
'All currency related matters are co-ordinated and administered from a central location by the AFP with administrative support provided by the RBA,' the AFP said in a statement.
As the upsurge in illegal notes took hold in New South Wales late last year, Detective Superintendent Katsogiannis, the Commander of the state's Fraud and Cybercrime Squad urged the community to be on the lookout.
'We have seen an increase in the number of counterfeit banknotes being reported to police,' Det Supt Katsogiannis said.
Reports doubled from month-to-month at one stage in late 2014.
'While the notes we’ve seized have been from a range of denominations, the vast majority are fifty and one hundred dollar notes.'
Queensland Police believe they broke up a counterfeit syndicate when they arrested members of an outlaw motorcycle gang and recovered almost $2million worth of fake bills
The RBA states that 'printed sheets are then guillotined into individual banknotes and transported through computer-controlled machines for final counting, removal of imperfect banknotes, and banding'
Evidence: NSW Police say this is among the fake money they uncovered during an operation in Lithgow
After the cutting process, 'the final stage of the process sees the finished banknotes shrink-wrapped, moved onto pallets and stored in a strong-room prior to distribution around the country'
The counterfeit bills have most recently surfaced in Lithgow, on the western slopes of the Blue Mountains, at a number of local businesses. A 21-year-old man was arrested and later released and was assisting police investigations.
A joint police operation led to the arrest last October of one man, aged 23, after a range of businesses across NSW, Victoria and the ACT alerted authorities to the use of counterfeit $50 bills.
The Reserve Bank says that: Historically, Australia has one of the lowest rates of counterfeiting in the world. Most people will never see a counterfeit. Even so, it is vitally important that people are aware of the security features included on Australia's banknotes.'
'All Australian banknotes have similar security features, though their location can vary. To determine if a suspect banknote is a counterfeit, it is best to compare it with a banknote that is known to be genuine.'
HOW TO SPOT FAKE MONEY
1 Feel the banknote, Australian banknotes are printed on plastic, they are difficult to tear and will spring back after being scrunched.
2 Check the clear window. Make sure the window hasn’t been added on and the printed image can’t be easily rubbed off. Also look for embossing on $10, $20, $50 and $100 banknotes.
3 Look for the star diamond-shaped patterns are printed inside a circle on both sides of the banknote. When held up to the light, they form a seven-pointed star.
4 Check the shadow image. The Australian Coat of Arms should appear on the bank note when it is held up to the light.
5 Look for the microprinting. Under a magnifying glass, tiny words can be seen in the top left corner of the $5 banknote and near the portraits on other banknotes.
'Some of the counterfeit notes we’ve seized have been printed on paper, and some on plastic. All genuine banks notes are printed on a special form of plastic,' Det Supt Katsogiannis said.
'As for the counterfeit notes printed on plastic, they feel slightly thicker than genuine bank notes.
'Furthermore, the clarity of the images on the counterfeit plastic notes is not as sharp as it is on genuine ones.'
The New South Wales locations where the counterfeit notes have been uncovered since July last year include: Ashfield, Balmain, Bankstown, Bargo, Blacktown, Bondi Junction, Bowral, Broadmeadow, Camperdown, Canley Vale, Caringbah, Chatswood, Colyton, Doonside, Epping, Glebe, Gundagai, Hurstville, Ingleburn, Kogarah, Liverpool, Manly, Marrickville, Marsfield, Milperra, Mittagong, Moss Vale, Mount Pritchard, North St Marys, Parramatta, Penrith, Punchbowl, Pyrmont, Robertson, Rooty Hill, St Marys, Strathfield, Surry Hills, Sydney CBD, The Rocks, Umina Beach, Werrington and West Ryde.
The Reserve Bank states that there is just one official printing press for Australia's currency, 'Australia's banknotes are printed by Note Printing Australia Limited which is located on a 26 hectare site at Craigieburn, Victoria, 25 kilometres north of Melbourne'.
Security there is of the highest order.
'(The) main production building is a purpose-built four-storey, reinforced concrete structure .. the site is bounded by high-security perimeter fencing, has an armed guard force protecting it around the clock and is supported by a range of highly sophisticated electronic security and surveillance devices.'
The RBA says it's a simple exercise to check whether you're handling real money or fake. 1 Is it plastic? 2 Look for the coat of arms 3 Diamond-shaped patterns are printed inside a circle on both sides of the bank note, if you hold the note up to the light, the patterns should line up perfectly to form a seven-pointed star 4 And finally check the clear window which should be an integral part of the banknote and not an addition. Check that the white image printed on the window cannot be easily rubbed off
Victorian Police say this note from an arrest at Ararat is clearly identifiable as a fake
Australian banknotes are printed on sheets of polymer substrate in the NPA printing hall 'using various printing plates, processes, machines and inks'.
'Different sized sheets are used for each denomination,' the RBA reveals.
'The first printing process involves the background colours and patterns being printed onto both sides of the polymer sheets at the same time. these machines can print up to 8,000 sheets per hour.
'Separate print runs are required for each side of the sheet. The resulting raised print is one of the important security features of Australia's polymer banknotes.
'Serial numbers are then added to the sheets using a letterpress printing process.
'In a final print run, the banknote sheets are given two coats of a protective over-coating ink using an offset printing press. This overcoat contributes to the extended durability of polymer banknotes as it protects the printing. It also helps to keep the banknotes clean.
'Printed sheets are then guillotined into individual banknotes and transported through computer-controlled machines for final counting, removal of imperfect banknotes, and banding.
'The final stage of the process sees the finished banknotes shrink-wrapped, moved onto pallets and stored in a strong-room prior to distribution around the country.'
The Australian Crime Commission estimates that 'serious and organised crime costs Australia $15 billion every year'.
Victoria Police recently seized numerous counterfeit notes after executing a warrant at a house in Ringwood North. They located a number of $100 and $50 notes on this occasion