Fake bills in Buenos Aires

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My wife and I visited Argentina in August ’07. Upon our arrival at Buenos Aires’ airport, in nearby Ezeiza, we passed through Immigration into the baggage-claim area and went to a money-exchange kiosk run by Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.es). Since we needed money for transportation to our hotel, we exchanged $300 into pesos and received an exchange rate of 2.77.

After collecting our luggage, we made our way to the arrivals hall taxi kiosk and paid with a 100-peso bill, which was accepted without any problem.

The following morning we attempted a financial transaction nearby and were told immediately that the 20-peso bill we had tendered was a fake. We returned to the hotel and explained our situation to the manager. He examined our remaining pesos and declared without hesitation that, out of the total of 832.75 pesos we had received at the airport, 160 were fake (one 100-peso, two 20-peso, one 10-peso and two 5-peso bills), approximately 60 dollars’ worth.

He explained that a lot of fake money is given to tourists, but he hadn’t heard of anyone getting it at the airport. He stated that taxi drivers frequently pass along fake bills. For example, if the taxi fare is 16 pesos and you give the driver a 20-peso bill, he will swiftly (where you can’t see) exchange it for a fake bill and declare it is a fake. The only way to avoid this scam it to write down the last five to six digits of the bill you tender and, if there is a problem, demand that he call the police. We followed this suggestion and had no problems.

Other places where fake money commonly is given are open-air markets and street vendors’.

The following day we made a formal complaint to the police at the airport. The whole process took about six hours. We filled in numerous forms in front of witnesses, and we got the impression that they took our complaint very seriously. One of the policemen spoke English well, had attended a training course in the USA and was a great help.

Our fake money and real money were examined repeatedly, and they agreed with the conclusions of the hotel manager. They stated that the things to look for include the thickness of the paper, differences in density and position of the watermark, the absence of a watermark, and the same serial numbers being on different bills. They talked about many other differences, but the average person is easily deceived.

We were told that fake money is a big problem in Buenos Aires but that elsewhere it is virtually nonexistent. We visited Cordoba and Mendoza as well and encountered no problems, although we were constantly writing down the serial numbers of notes in taxis and examining our change in shops.

Referring back to the rate of exchange we had been given by Globalexchange.es upon our arrival (2.77 pesos for each U.S. dollar), during the next two weeks we found that this was the least-favorable rate anywhere.

All the hotels we stayed at gave three pesos for each U.S. dollar. Money-exchange places in the city gave rates up to 3.06 pesos, and banks often offered rates up to 3.08 pesos.

A lot of shops will accept U.S. dollars but only if you ask. Our best rate of exchange was at a shop in Mendoza, where we got 3.36 pesos for each U.S. dollar.

Argentina is a wonderful place to visit. This was our sixth trip there and it was the first time we encountered the fake-bills problem. The people we met were well mannered, gracious and very helpful.

We are especially grateful to the staff of Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt (800/233-1234, www.hyatt.com) in Buenos Aires, as they not only provided advice but arranged transportation for us to the airport and back.

BERNARD GOODHEAD

La Jolla, CA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My wife and I visited Argentina in August ’07. Upon our arrival at Buenos Aires’ airport, in nearby Ezeiza, we passed through Immigration into the baggage-claim area and went to a money-exchange kiosk run by Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.es). Since we needed money for transportation to our hotel, we exchanged $300 into pesos and received an exchange rate of 2.77.

After collecting our luggage, we made our way to the arrivals hall taxi kiosk and paid with a 100-peso bill, which was accepted without any problem.

The following morning we attempted a financial transaction nearby and were told immediately that the 20-peso bill we had tendered was a fake. We returned to the hotel and explained our situation to the manager. He examined our remaining pesos and declared without hesitation that, out of the total of 832.75 pesos we had received at the airport, 160 were fake (one 100-peso, two 20-peso, one 10-peso and two 5-peso bills), approximately 60 dollars’ worth.

He explained that a lot of fake money is given to tourists, but he hadn’t heard of anyone getting it at the airport. He stated that taxi drivers frequently pass along fake bills. For example, if the taxi fare is 16 pesos and you give the driver a 20-peso bill, he will swiftly (where you can’t see) exchange it for a fake bill and declare it is a fake. The only way to avoid this scam it to write down the last five to six digits of the bill you tender and, if there is a problem, demand that he call the police. We followed this suggestion and had no problems.

Other places where fake money commonly is given are open-air markets and street vendors’.

The following day we made a formal complaint to the police at the airport. The whole process took about six hours. We filled in numerous forms in front of witnesses, and we got the impression that they took our complaint very seriously. One of the policemen spoke English well, had attended a training course in the USA and was a great help.

Our fake money and real money were examined repeatedly, and they agreed with the conclusions of the hotel manager. They stated that the things to look for include the thickness of the paper, differences in density and position of the watermark, the absence of a watermark, and the same serial numbers being on different bills. They talked about many other differences, but the average person is easily deceived.

We were told that fake money is a big problem in Buenos Aires but that elsewhere it is virtually nonexistent. We visited Cordoba and Mendoza as well and encountered no problems, although we were constantly writing down the serial numbers of notes in taxis and examining our change in shops.

Referring back to the rate of exchange we had been given by Globalexchange.es upon our arrival (2.77 pesos for each U.S. dollar), during the next two weeks we found that this was the least-favorable rate anywhere.

All the hotels we stayed at gave three pesos for each U.S. dollar. Money-exchange places in the city gave rates up to 3.06 pesos, and banks often offered rates up to 3.08 pesos.

A lot of shops will accept U.S. dollars but only if you ask. Our best rate of exchange was at a shop in Mendoza, where we got 3.36 pesos for each U.S. dollar.

Argentina is a wonderful place to visit. This was our sixth trip there and it was the first time we encountered the fake-bills problem. The people we met were well mannered, gracious and very helpful.

We are especially grateful to the staff of Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt (800/233-1234, www.hyatt.com) in Buenos Aires, as they not only provided advice but arranged transportation for us to the airport and back.

BERNARD GOODHEAD

La Jolla, CA