RCMP seize 10,000 counterfeit toonies—here’s how to tell if you have one

Counterfeit Toonie Photo Courtesy of the RCMP

On May 9, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Trans-National Serious and Organized Crime Section (TSOC) charged an Ontario resident with uttering counterfeit money and possession of counterfeit money after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) identified and seized approximately 10,000 counterfeit toonies.

The RCMP started an investigation into the counterfeit currency in the summer of 2021 after the Royal Canadian Mint identified fake toonies through its random sampling process. The vast majority of the counterfeit coins were found circulating in the GTA and were collected throughout the investigation, not all in one haul.

In a statement, the RCMP said it suspects that the coins originated from China and that some of the counterfeit toonies are likely still circulating in Canada’s currency system.

Do you have any counterfeit toonies?

To tell whether you’re in possession of a counterfeit toonie, the RCMP recommends looking at the coin’s polar bear. The right front paw on the fake coin has a split-toe, resembling a camel’s foot. The right front paw on a legitimate toonie more closely resembles a bear paw.

“The unique features on Canada’s circulation coins make them among the most secure in the world and allowed these counterfeit pieces to be identified and removed from circulation quickly,” said James Malizia, vice-president of corporate security at the Royal Canadian Mint, in a statement.

Public reaction to the fake toonies

Rather than being concerned about the counterfeit toonies, many Canadians took to social media to voice their confusion.

“Seems more trouble than it’s worth to counterfeit a metal coin. For me, I would suspect that it would need to be $100 and up for the risk involved and the ROI,” wrote Roger A. Stiver on Facebook.

Natasha Munro commented on Facebook: “I have to ask, what’s the cost per counterfeit toonie with the added cost of transportation, time, and the now future legal expenses?”

The man charged by the GTA-TSOC for the counterfeit toonies was Daixiong He (age 68) of Richmond Hill, Ont. Police released He from custody on an undertaking, which means that He made a legally-binding promise to appear in court. He’s court appearance will be in Newmarket on June 2.

The history of counterfeit currency

Despite the severity of the issue, this is far from the first time the RCMP have dealt with counterfeit currency. From 2014 to 2016, the Integrated Counterfeit Enforcement Team (ICET) investigated a counterfeiting ring based in Quebec that was manufacturing bogus $100 banknotes from the Birds of Canada and Scenes of Canada series.

The influx of phony $100 bills was having a major impact on the Canadian economy. In March 2017, the ICET managed to take down the counterfeiting ring and seize the fake banknotes. The amount of counterfeit bills seized totalled $1.4 million.

If you suspect that someone is trying to pay you with counterfeit currency, the Bank of Canada suggests that you do the following:

  • Politely refuse the note and explain that you suspect that it may be counterfeit.
  • Ask for another note (and check it too).
  • Advise the person to check the note with the local police.
  • Inform your local police of a possible attempt to pass suspected counterfeit money.
  • Be courteous. Remember that the person in possession of the bill could be an innocent victim who does not realize that the note is suspicious.

If you believe you’ve received counterfeit currency after a transaction, the Bank of Canada says you should report it to your local police. If the currency is real, you’ll get it back. If it’s fake, unfortunately you’ll lose the money, but you will be helping prosecutors get one step closer to shutting down counterfeiters.

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