Avina Vidyadharan

May 27, 2023

Charity shops during the day and pubs by the night are being targeted by those peddling counterfeit cash currently circulating in Hamilton.

Anne McMullen from Vinnies was charmed by an “upstanding nice man”, who gave her a fake $50 bill on Wednesday.

The same evening, a lady tried to trick Biddy Mulligan’s staff with fake $50 and $100 notes.

While Waikato Police say they are aware of an increase in counterfeit notes circulating in the community, the Reserve Bank has begun to run geographically targeted social media advertising to alert retailers.

Biddy’s manager Soliel Mcdonald​ realised she was handed a fake $100 bill as soon as she touched it.

But someone asking for two Red Bulls at the bar with $100 cash was the first red flag.

Mcdonald called her out and the next minute she was gone, along with her group of mates.

“Then I remembered another staff had served her some 10 minutes ago.

“So I quickly looked in the till and found a fake $50 bill.”

Mcdonald said the pub was very busy on Wednesday and the other staff must not have paid much attention.

Vinnies Glenview volunteer Anne McMullen was handed a fake $50 banknote on Wednesday. (Real banknote in the picture)

She described her as a Māori lady, in her thirties or forties, wearing a black puffer jacket and hair tied up.

“She came in when it was obviously busy and both times that she came up to the bar, she made sure that she got served by someone else.

“I think she’s going to places that are really busy with the lights sort of turned down.”

This wasn’t the case with Vinnies in Glenview where someone handed a fake $50 bill in broad daylight.

McMullen is a volunteer at the shop and said she couldn’t tell the difference between real and fake notes until she lined it up to the light.

“I showed it to other people after the bank told me it was fake, and they were confused too.”

McMullen claimed she never judged anyone based on looks but was swooned, and later conned, by a “pretty face”.

“He talked about buying stuff for his grandmother and said he’s come from Te Awamutu because he’s heard how good this shop is.”

It was absolutely horrible someone was conning charity shops, she said.

“We’re one of the few that sells, like, garage stuff.

“We charge $3 for most items here and when Work and Income were next door, families would come in and if they couldn’t afford anything and were in real need, we’d just give it to them anyway.”

Fake banknotes are circulating in Hamilton, Auckland and Rotorua.

The man was later caught on Hamilton East Salvation Army CCTV.

The shop had a few similar incidents in the past year. McMullen said when counterfeiters first started “the fifties were very badly done…they’ve got better at it”.

Waikato Police were aware of an increase in counterfeit notes circulating.

People dealing with cash were advised to check their notes.

Anyone with information about the use of counterfeit money, including CCTV footage of people using counterfeit money in stores, were advised to contact Police on 105 or at www.police.govt.nz/use-105.

A Reserve Bank spokesperson said none of the security features on the banknotes were compromised by fake notes, and the scammers only relied on cash handlers not taking a moment to check.

There is usually a sporadic regional spate of fake notes and at the moment they were popping up in parts of Auckland, Hamilton and Rotorua.

These spates tended to end when cash handlers start turning the fakes away or police make an arrest, a spokesperson said.

These fakes were easily identified using the look-feel-tilt method.