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File photo of man checking a banknote in a counterfeit detector. Shutterstock

Calls for social media giants to 'come down on top of' accounts advertising fake euro notes

Some accounts seen by The Journal advertised counterfeit banknotes claiming to be “100% undetectable”.

THE HEAD OF a newsagents association has called on social media companies to “come down on top of” people attempting to sell counterfeit cash online. 

Several social media platforms available to Irish users have been advertising the sale of fake or counterfeit cash.

Accounts examined by The Journal, which can be found on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, shared photos and videos of what appear to be fake euro notes which are alleged to be for sale. 

In many of these posts, users are prompted to join a Telegram channel or a WhatsApp or Discord group so that they can find out how to purchase the fake cash.

Fraudulent notes in other currencies were also advertised by some of the accounts. 

The use of fraudulent currency to buy goods or services is an offence under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001 and carries a potential prison sentence of 10 years.

One account on Facebook, which had over three thousand followers, urged people to buy “undetectable counterfeit banknotes in 34 currencies” in a post shared last month. 

Another account, which claimed to be based in Germany and had over 500 followers, posted several videos, stating that the notes were “100% undetectable” and could bypass “the pen test and the UV light”. 

An Instagram account with almost 1,000 followers shared similar statements about its alleged fake cash, and asked users to join its Telegram channel, which was linked to the page.

This was also done on a TikTok account which had over 28,000 followers. These account have since been removed by the platforms.

TikTok’s community guidelines state that it does not allow content that violates laws or regulations. The company prohibits the trade, sale, promotion, and use of certain regulated goods, as well as the promotion or facilitation of criminal activities.

A spokesperson for the company told The Journal: “We use a combination of technologies and moderation teams to identify, review and, where appropriate, remove content or accounts that violate our Community Guidelines.

“We also make it easy for our community to report problematic content for review. Content moderation at this scale requires us to constantly look for ways to improve both our policies and enforcement strategies.”

When The Journal contacted Meta – the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp – to ask about its policy on such accounts and brought examples to its attention, a spokesperson said:

“Fraudulent activity is not allowed on our platforms, and we have removed the content brought to our attention.

“We are continually investing in new technologies to tackle this industry-wide issue, and encourage people to report activity like this to us and the police.”

Vincent Jennings, CEO of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA), told The Journal the problem of counterfeit cash “comes in waves” and is usually “very localised”. 

“Counterfeit is always a problem. Some of them are spectacularly good in the quality and others, they’re like wallpaper and you wonder how anybody would ever accept them,” he said.

“We have to be on our guard. The guy who’s doing it, he only has to be lucky one in 20 times and he’s ahead. We have to be vigilant all the time. It goes with the territory.”

Jennings said sometimes customers will take issue with the fact that their money is being checked in a detector. 

“We’re doing our job and making sure that when we’re handing out change to people, it’s already gone through a process of validation,” he said.

“It’s a two-way thing. Don’t be upset if I’m looking because you can be guaranteed that I’ve looked at the change that you’re getting and it’s okay.”

Referring to accounts that advertise the sale of counterfeit cash, Jennings said the social media companies must “remove them and come down on top of them”. 

“This isn’t a fun thing. There are victims for this. If somebody loses money, that’s there business that has been affected unduly and the staff member may well find themselves in difficulties for having taken it.”

When asked by The Journal whether the circulation of counterfeit notes was on the rise, a spokesperson for the Retail, Grocery, Dairy and Allied Traders Association (RGDATA) said they inquired about the issue with some of their members.

“Members contacted were not having particular problems at the moment,” the spokesperson said.

They said that one retailer in Co Donegal received two fake €50 notes and informed Gardaí about the matter.

Most retailers use UV lights and other detection methods to ensure they don’t accept fake notes, the spokesperson added.

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