Counterfeiting of Bills in Mexico Declines, but Circulation Persists - Expat Community

Counterfeiting of Bills in Mexico Declines, but Circulation Persists

Mar 1, 2024 | Mexico, News & Articles | 0 comments

01 MAR. 2024

Despite a 19% decrease in the alteration of bills between 2021 and 2022, circulation continues to accumulate high numbers. In Monterrey, a man is arrested at an Oxxo for attempting to deposit 4,000 pesos with counterfeit bills.

Brandon entered the Oxxo at the corner of Carlos Salazar Poniente and Venustiano Carranza in the city of Monterrey to make a deposit of 4,000 pesos (about 234 dollars) to a Spin bank account; an electronic payment fund account specific to the store chain. The cashier used a machine to verify the origin of the bills and found that two 500 pesos bills and five 200 pesos bills were counterfeit. She activated the alert button, and Monterrey police officers patrolling the area arrived and arrested 27-year-old Brandon A.

Despite a 19% decrease in bill counterfeiting compared to 2022, the circulation continues to accumulate high numbers. The Bank of Mexico (Banxico) reports the detection of 284,643 counterfeit units between January and December 2023; the figure in 2022 was 350,828. The most affected denominations were 500 pesos, with 154,131, and 200 pesos, with 63,236.

Brandon A., arrested on February 17, 2024, possibly sought to make the deposit knowing that the bills he carried were illicit, or perhaps he was unaware, but there is no distinction before the law. Counterfeiting currency is a federal offense punishable by 5 to 12 years in prison and up to 500 days of fines, as established by Article 234 of the Federal Penal Code. “Currency, for the purposes of this Chapter, is understood to be the bills and metal pieces, national or foreign, that are legal tender in the issuing country,” reads page 87 of the official document.

To mitigate the spread of counterfeit bills, Banxico approached the Faculty of Psychology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 2023. The organization paid almost two million pesos for a study in which a group of subjects correctly detected, discriminated, identified, and classified authentic and counterfeit pieces through behavioral or psychophysical techniques. “In a very general way, it is a project of the Bank of Mexico, along with other central banks in Europe, to try to identify the perception and use that people make of the security elements of different bills to take some indications, some suggestions to improve the design of the bills,” comments Germán Palafox, professor of Psychology at UNAM, over the phone.

Improvements in the design “are not only about aesthetics but also about security that could be improved for the precise identification of counterfeit bills by the general population.” In broad terms, Palafox comments, “there are five experiments with participants who have a common and ordinary use of cash, like you and me, and also with people who have an intensive use of cash as part of their work.”

Although coins are also counterfeited, the experiment focused only on bills. In addition to the Mexican peso, the euro and the Swedish crown are also part of the research. Banxico gave the Faculty of Psychology one year to draw conclusions. “We already have preliminary data and are writing the final reports that we will deliver,” adds Palafox.

What to do if you receive a counterfeit bill?

The National Commission for the Protection and Defense of Users of Financial Services (CONDUSEF) clarifies two situations in which one could receive a counterfeit bill: when paying at a store and receiving change or when withdrawing cash from an ATM. For each circumstance, there is a different process.

If the bill comes from a store, the user must go to any bank branch “to request that the piece be sent to Banxico for analysis. The branch must provide a receipt with the bill’s details (denomination, folio number, series, and issuance date), personal information (name, address, phone number), as well as the bank branch’s information.” The entity will have a maximum of 20 business days to determine the result, and it will be notified to the reporter.

When an ATM dispenses a counterfeit bill, “you have to go to any branch of the institution within the five business days after receiving it to file a complaint.” Subsequently, the bank will conduct an investigation to determine if the counterfeit unit was issued by the ATM, and if so, “the amount of the presented bills will be refunded. But if it considers that it does not apply, it must inform you in writing of the reasons,” stipulates the National Commission for the Protection and Defense of Users of Financial Services (Condusef).

How to verify the authenticity of a bill?

There are up to 17 elements to verify bills in Mexico; however, three of these require additional tools such as a magnifying glass or a device to identify fluorescence under ultraviolet light. The Bank of Mexico’s website contains all the components with a description of how to identify them; here are some easy-to-identify ones:

-Tactile relief.


-Perfect registration: on the front of some bills, certain elements of an image are printed, and on the back, their complementary elements. These can be observed against the light.

-Transparent window.

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