Canadian Security Magazine

Counterfeit currency: How the RCMP, law enforcement and the Bank of Canada combat fake money

By Brittani Schroeder and Michael Scott-Doornink   

Features bank of canada editors pick rcmp

Image: © dennizn / Adobe Stock

Counterfeiting currency is not a new crime. In fact, people have been creating fake money going as far back as the fifth century. So why is this still happening in 2023? How can law enforcement and the banks keep this from happening? From creating new polymer bank notes, to launching projects and initiatives and working with municipal law enforcement agencies, the RCMP shares the details that you should know, so you can help stop this crime.

Current trends

There are two trends that the RCMP and the Bank of Canada (BoC) are  currently seeing with counterfeits.

Since 2011, there has been a large decline in the amount of counterfeit currency detected in circulation. This was the year that the BoC introduced their first polymer series bank note. “Polymer notes have proven to be very difficult to replicate, which has contributed to the decline we’ve witnessed,” said Cst. Michael Scott-Doornink, RCMP. The polymer was much harder to perfect and create a passable bill. However, there has been a movement toward being able to create high-quality passable polymer notes, as shown in recent investigations. “Hence, we must continue to be vigilant in all aspects of monitoring and enforcement of counterfeit money being passed into the system.”

As a result of the success and changes to the Canadian bank notes, criminals have shifted their approach by altering counterfeits, or using poor quality paper reproductions that can be mistaken for real money.


The second trend that the RCMP and the BoC are seeing is a shift to a higher denomination. “This is something that can change on a regular basis, depending on what denomination is passable at the time,” said Cst. Scott-Doornink. In the past, he explained, $20 notes would be the counterfeit of choice, as the point-of-sale might not give the same amount of scrutiny as higher bills and could more easily fly under the radar. This changes as counterfeits are detected.

Criminality of counterfeit currency

The criminality, as it relates to counterfeit currency, is really two sides of a coin. On one side there is the manufacturer and on the other there’s the passer.

The manufacturer, depending on their level of sophistication, is constantly trying to adapt to new bank note security features, while the BoC is constantly working to thwart new counterfeiting techniques. To stay ahead of this, for many years the RCMP and the BoC have educated the public on detecting counterfeit currency as a means of deterrence while helping to minimize victimization. As demonstrated by the “Counterfeit Canadian Bank Notes from 2001-2021” graph, the introduction of polymer notes and other BoC initiatives have resulted in a decrease in the prevalence of counterfeit notes in Canada to a level of about one counterfeit note per every 142,857 genuine notes in circulation.

The BoC aims to keep counterfeiting levels below a maximum target of 30 counterfeit notes per million notes in circulation (parts per million, or PPM). In 2021, the level of counterfeit notes was 7 PPM and remains well below the target.

The passer, meanwhile, without wanting to oversimplify the known methodologies available to them, are overly reliant on person-to-person transactions which doesn’t really allow for a lot of sophistication or advancement in methodology. In fact, during the earlier stages of the pandemic, when consumers were being forced to utilize other forms of payment, there was a dramatic drop in counterfeit passing.

This reliance on person-to-person transactions is one of the main reasons that the relationship between the BoC and RCMP is so important, as it allows them to meet and engage with stakeholders to provide education and workshops for detecting counterfeit notes and other known methodologies to watch-out for.

Projects and initiatives

The RCMP has numerous projects and initiatives currently underway to improve the way they investigate counterfeit crime.

In 2011, the RCMP and the BoC partnered to fight again counterfeiting. The RCMP investigates, and the BoC provides the awareness and outreach components. “Approaching the fight against counterfeiting as a joint operation, rather than separate entities, streamlined the process and information sharing became simplified. The Bank also works closely with law enforcement, financial institutions and retail partners to address counterfeiting and to minimize its impact on Canadians,” said Cst. Scott-Doornink.

Education has become a focus with the RCMP and the BoC, and they provide presentations, workshops and conferences for law enforcement, retailers and the general public.

“Our bank notes are only secure if everyone checks them at the point of sale. Educating the public to routinely check all notes—no matter the series or value—allows cash handlers to intercept counterfeits and keep them out of the till and out of our pockets,” Cst. Scott-Doornink said.

The criminality, as it relates to counterfeit currency, is really two sides of a coin. On one side there is the manufacturer and on the other there’s the passer.

Working in partnership

The RCMP has always had a very special relationship with their neighbours to the south, but also law enforcement globally. As part of the RCMP’s education awareness and enforcement initiatives, they have partnered with the BoC, the United States Secret Service and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In partnership with the BoC and Niagara Regional Police, the RCMP is organizing the 30th Annual Niagara Counterfeit and Fraud Workshop in May. This event provides investigators from the law enforcement, retail and financial institution communities the opportunity to hear about relevant topics that impact their communities and organizations. Those in attendance are also provided with techniques and resources to stay ahead of criminals in the fight against counterfeiting and fraud.

The RCMP also has the National Anti-Counterfeit Bureau (NACB). The NACB maintains a national database of bank notes recovered from circulation in Canada. It assists in establishing counterfeit trends and supporting criminal investigations for all of Canada, not just the RCMP.

Image credit: National Anti-Counterfeiting Bureau, RCMP

Provincial and municipal law enforcement agencies

The RCMP’s fight against counterfeit currency is aided by its partners in municipal and provincial law enforcement agencies (LEAs). LEAs can ensure the proper submission of seized counterfeit currency notes and the instruments used to produce such notes to the NACB. “Proper fanouts or notifications through police working groups, such as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), which are then disseminated to other LEA investigators, is key to keeping the line of communication open to notify of these types of crimes and trends in each jurisdiction,” said Cst. Scott-Doornink.

In 2021, the NACB reported 44 per cent of the counterfeits passed were in Ontario.

When thinking about the most important pieces of information for members of law enforcement to know about counterfeit currency, Cst. Scott-Doornink reiterates that the timely submission of counterfeit currency to the NACB is essential in determining the current trends in the counterfeit passing incidents, and to link similar incident to identify those responsible for the counterfeit currency being passed. Therefore, information sharing between LEAs and good record maintenance on inter-agency databases are essential to a successful prosecution.

Recent investigations

Counterfeit Toonie Investigation:

Counterfeit Hundred Investigation:

Contact information:

Bank of Canada:


Counterfeit submissions by law enforcement:

Editor’s note: Resources geared at law enforcement, retailers and the general public are available on the Bank of Canada’s website, Bank notes – Bank of Canada. This includes a variety of educational materials and legal resources for law enforcement and Crown prosecutors. The 30th annual Niagara Counterfeit and Fraud Workshop will be held in May 2023, and more information can be found at

Constable Michael Scott-Doornink joined the RCMP in 2018 and started in the Integrated Counterfeit Enforcement Team within the Financial Crime Section of the Toronto West RCMP office. The RCMP has now amalgamated their Financial Crimes Section into a new section called the Transnational Serious and Organized Crime Section where Cst. Scott-Doornink works with regional and national partners on a wide range of investigations from banking, traditional organized crime, market manipulation and cryptocurrencies.

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