The Central Bank halted the examination of counterfeit banknotes in March of last year, the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The service was stopped for more than a year, until May 31, and now the monetary authority has a stock of 260,000 notes awaiting analysis.
Among those to be examined, there are also worn bills, evaluated so that the BC can decide whether or not they can be circulated again. If they are inadequate, the municipality makes the replacement.
After the return of the expert, 340,000 ballots were analyzed and 200,000 were found to be counterfeit. Among them, 10,800 are worth R$ 200, equivalent to 5.4%.
As the analysis of banknotes received between March 2020 and May 2021 has not yet been completed, BC stopped publishing the monthly counterfeit banknote seizure statistics, which are expected to resume in November. The last available data is the 2019 accumulated, when 492,193 counterfeit banknotes were seized.
During this period, the banks received 600,000 units –among suspect and worn out–, but could not transfer them to the autarchy. According to BC, since the return of activities, more than half have already been examined.
“During the period in question, it should be clarified that the Central Bank continued to automatically process the cash from the banking network, checking the amount and level of wear of the banknotes. During this process, it is possible to identify counterfeit banknotes. Such banknotes were separated, analyzed and are already part of the counterfeiting statistics,” said the BC.
The monetary authority’s argument is that essential services, such as cash distribution, were prioritized during the health crisis.
The guideline is that anyone who receives suspicious money and only notices later should take the banknote or coin to a bank branch. The institution writes down the person’s data and sends it to the BC.
If it is proven that the ballot is legitimate, the person is reimbursed by the bank. Otherwise there is no refund. Those who handed over the ballot can consult the status of the analysis on the BC website.
If the banknote has been withdrawn at the bank, the customer can ask for immediate reimbursement.
Before the pandemic, banks had up to 45 days to send suspicious money to the BC, which had another 20 days to analyze. If the exam showed that the money is legitimate, the bank had up to 24 hours to deposit the amount in the customer’s account.
If the person who delivered the money is not an account holder at the institution, the deadline for communicating the availability of the amount was three working days.
While the service was paralyzed, however, those who sent in ballots for analysis were left unanswered.
“It’s important to take the suspect card to the bank to stop circulation and because passing on a counterfeit bill is a crime”, explains Alessandro Azzoni, lawyer, economist and board member at ACSP (Sao Paulo Commercial Association).
“The ideal is to check the security elements of the note when you receive it,” said the expert.
Despite the lack of statistics, Azzoni said he believed the circulation of counterfeit bills had decreased in the pandemic. “With people at home, the use of electronic payments has increased and other data show this, such as the use of cards by approximation,” he said.
According to him, the stoppage of the expertise did not hinder the action of the Federal Police, because as soon as the ballots are delivered to the banks, the corporation begins the investigation.
The BC stated that it has a cooperation agreement with the Federal Police. “The analyzes carried out on ballots received for examination at both institutions are shared,” he said.
In August of last year, amid the increased demand for paper money due to the payment of emergency aid, the BC launched the R$ 200 bill, which featured the maned wolf as a print.
Initially, the monetary authority announced the manufacture of 450 million units, but, with demand below expectations, only 80.2 million have been put into circulation so far, equivalent to 17.8% of the forecast.
For Azzoni, with the escalation of prices and the reopening of stores, the total number of counterfeit R$ 200 bills seized should increase.
“The purchasing power of the banknote is being eroded by inflation and people should look for these banknotes more. With that, counterfeiting in this amount should also increase,” he justified.