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Counterfeit Bills

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Houston, Tx
posts: 5
reviews: 17
Counterfeit Bills

I wanted to post this topic as a way for anyone going to Buenos Aires that will be using taxis to get around to be informed. Not to frighten or scare you off from using them.

My wife and I were down there last week and we used taxis pretty much the whole time. They were cheap and plentiful. But coming home one night from a Tango show we had a problem. We tried to pay our taxi with a 50 peso bill and he said it was false. Then I pulled another 50 bill and gave it to him and he said it was also fake. I couldn't believe what was going on. I wanted to pay the guy so I told him to take me to an ATM (Bancelo) so I can get another bill and when i gave him the 100 peso bill he also said it was fake!! Wow. As he was taking us back to the hotel there was an HSBC and I told him to pull over so I can take out another bill. After looking at the supposed fakes everytime he handed it back to me, I started taking note of the differences mainly on how they felt I knew immediately the one I took out of HSBC atm was the real deal and even told him. Then he said yes...this one is real. Gave me the change ( only to find out that the 50 peso he gave me back was also fake!) As we walked into our hotel we explained to our hotel front desk attendent on what had just happend and verfied that the bills we had were all fake. We still can't pinpoint where we received them from. From the taxi driver? From the tango show? From the ATM!?!??! Until now we still aren't sure. But it left a very bad taste being it was our last night in Buenos Aires. Everything had gone so well.

But you can inform yourself on how to prevent this from happening to you. I had no idea this was an issue or how rampant it was. It wasn't until afterward that night while researching on the internet that it does happen especially if your a tourist since obviously we are not familiar with scams as such since we don't live there.

Ask your hotel to give you a quick run down on how to tell the difference from a fake to a real bill ( I was so lucky be able to have an example of each : / ) Check the reflection of the number amount to make sure its reflective and changes color and it doesn't look out of line. The reflection of the preson in the bill when held up to the light shouldn't look to dark, you should be able to see the single strands of hair on the person on the bill, and feel of the bill shouldn't be to smooth. I'm sure there are countless other ways just. You could also look at the last 3 or 4 numbers on the bill before handing the bill over to a taxi or whoever. So if they come back saying its fake you tell them that wasn't the bill you gave them. Those are just a couple examples to help prevent you from being scammed and its a fact that as a tourist you are a better target.

Again this is just so your informed about that but this in no way should prevent you from not having a good time in Buenos Aires. Besides that little incident we ended up enjoying our time in Buenos Aires. It's a beautiful city with very nice people.

Abilene, Texas
Destination Expert
for Buenos Aires
posts: 7,170
reviews: 67
1. Re: Counterfeit Bills

Odds are about 90 to 1 that you received the fake bills from the taxi driver. Switching real for counterfeit bills is a well known tactic used by dishonest taxi drivers. These crooks are few but they tend to give all taxi drivers a bad reputation.

Reading the numbers of bills you give a taxi driver to pay the fare is an excellent idea. Reading the numbers aloud so the driver can see you will further reduce the probability of an attempted switcheroo.

The single best idea for minimizing the possibility of becoming a victim is to carry lots of small bills and never pay with anything larger than a 20....

Sorry you had this negative experience. Thanks for warning others and providing some excellent advice that will surely prove useful for others.

Houston, Tx
posts: 5
reviews: 17
2. Re: Counterfeit Bills

Thank you. You know its not so much losing the money but being taken as a sucker. That's what hurts the most. BUT... we live and learn and it was a very good lesson for us to carry with us on any other travels we may have in other countries.

posts: 9
reviews: 6
3. Re: Counterfeit Bills

Sorry to hear about your experience. A similar thing happened to us a few years back also returning by cab from a tango show. It wasn't the Viejo Almacen by chance was it? Anyway we flagged down a cab to go back to our hotel. At the end of the ride I handled the old guy a bill that more than covered the fare. He did a quick switch and showed me this old ratty bill of a much smaller denomination and told me I still owed him money. I didn't actually see him do the switch but I know I hadn't given him the old ratty bill he showed me. Anyway he was an old guy and I figured if he was desperate enough to do that he probably needed it more than I did. So I went ahead and gave him another bill, but I held onto it until he made the proper change for me. That is the lesson I learned. Hold onto the bill until they have made and are ready to give you the change.

Houston, Tx
posts: 5
reviews: 17
4. Re: Counterfeit Bills

Yes you nailed it exactly! It was the Viejo Almacen. We grabbed the first taxi we saw sitting outside among all the tour buses after the show since it was raining. I totally agree with you...hold on to the bill. It's funny the next day we had the hotel call a taxi for us to the airport and when he unloaded our baggage and was ready to be paid, I pulled out each bill one at a time and clearly showed him it was real. It's not that I didn't trust him or anything but just wanted to be clear. He got a good kick out of it but understood my intentions.

Buenos Aires
posts: 988
reviews: 10
5. Re: Counterfeit Bills

Yes, it was almost certainly the taxi driver who switched all your bills, probably smirking all the while that you kept giving him more. What a heel.

Somebody paid us this week with a fake hundred which was a really excellent replica, down to the silver strip and the serial number being in the new place. What gave it away were the smoothness and non-flexibility of the paper and the fact that what seemed to be the watermark when held up to the light was actually printed on with white ink. Amazing really. The worst of it was that the lady reckoned she had got the bill out of an ATM, so it seems even the bank was fooled. She was kind and honest enough to swap it for a real bill when I realised I had accepted a fake. She might easily have concluded that I was pulling the taxi switcheroo and I was perfectly ready to accept it, though it would have pained me for anyone to think that!

To add to the excellent advice above, the ink on fakes is water soluble, so smudges when wet in a way that real money won't.

I am just looking at a five peso bill that we got from a taxi driver in the dark a while back - we keep it to show students how convincing the fakes can be. So, the trick they used there is to scrunch up the paper only in the place where you would expect the watermark to be, so it looks and feels a bit like there is one.

It seems so obvious but I'll add it anyway... it's not a good idea to change your money with the people on the touristy streets who whisper good rates as you pass by. Stick with the proper casas de cambio on Sarmiento and Reconquista, and check your bills before you leave the counter.

posts: 40
reviews: 83
6. Re: Counterfeit Bills

Just got back and the same thing happened to us, a switch for a bad bill and kept the good one. Avoid big bills at all costs and try to have exact change!!!

Buenos Aires
posts: 988
reviews: 10
7. Re: Counterfeit Bills

So do we add Viejo Almacen to the list of places rogue taxis frequent?

Other places to be super wary are:

- the kerb outside Ezeiza (always go to a proper kiosk inside or have your hotel send you a car);

- ditto Aeroparque Jorge Newberry;

- the Buquebus terminal;

- Retiro bus station.

Most taxis in most of the city are delightful and honest.

Buenos Aires
posts: 135
reviews: 6
8. Re: Counterfeit Bills

Man, it kills me to read these posts and I always wish it would just magically become unfashionable for the crooked taxi drivers to do this, but alas, crime pays.

I'll post this again and hope it reaches more incoming visitors to Buenos Aires: landingpadba.com/ba-basics-counterfeit-money/

Maybe we could make this a sticky? Destination experts? Scarlett? Dawggy?

posts: 2,233
reviews: 47
9. Re: Counterfeit Bills

On the very rare occasions when I have to pay a cab with a 20 or higher...I look at the last 5 digits of the bill's serial number and annouce to the driver..here is a 20 and the last five serial numbers are xxxxx. Often the driver will ask if I think he is a crook....of course not I say. At times I get a look of shock as the scam is kaput. If they say my bill is fake...I will ask for it back...it better have the same last 5 numbers...or...then can wait while I call the police. My wife is always with me so she does the talking...Argentine...then after we get out of the cab I get yelled at for having a large bill to pay with. I also have one of those little lights you put on your keyring. And I am not in a rush paying and getting out of the cab. They count on the darkness of the cab and a rush to get out to confuse you. Take your time. But again...most importantly...save your small bills....I have even paid a fare in peso coins....of course the prices are higher now and that many peso coin would pull my pants half off.

Edited: 7:45 am, February 23, 2011
Destination Expert
for Buenos Aires
posts: 3,533
reviews: 47
10. Re: Counterfeit Bills

The one and ony time (so far) that we have been Taxi Scammed was also exiting the Viejo Almacen - which was the absolutely WORST TANGO SHOW we have seen.

And to boot, we had reserved to see the Michaelangelo Tango - but V A pulled a fast one on us and reserved their show as Michaelangelo was closed; they were using the same telephone number. Then the Taxi scam -so we felt twice cheated...

Now, we follow all the good advice posted above and have not had another problem.