Counterfeit Money in China
Although rare, it is possible that you might be given a counterfeit note at some stage. The good news is that it is mainly the ¥100 note that is counterfeited. Since this is the highest denomination you don’t need to worry about receiving counterfeit ¥100 notes in change.
However, there are also counterfeit ¥50 notes around. You are most likely to be handed them by street vendors, and taxi drivers have been known to palm them off as well. Once you have one they are just about impossible to spend – almost every establishment in China will run ¥100 and ¥50 notes under a scanner of some sort before accepting them. However, once again, it should be stressed that this is very rare.
The way you are most likely to receive a counterfeit ¥100 note is through a switch. A vendor will take your good note then, using sleight of hand, will replace it with a counterfeit note and refuse to accept it. This is only likely to happen at markets, and even then only through the shady vendors who don’t have their own stand. When purchasing items through such people, keep a good eye on them to make sure they don’t make a switch.
Below is a comparison of a counterfeit ¥100 note (top) and an authentic one (bottom). The easiest difference to spot is that the vertical line is much lighter and has gaps in it on the counterfeit version. Also, on the counterfeit bills, the watermark of Mao has a more defined outline and the watermark “100” beneath Mao is not visible when held up to the light. Another test is to scratch Mao’s jacket with a fingernail. On a real bill it will feel bumpy, while on the counterfeit notes it is smooth. This is the best method to use to check your ¥50 bills as you can do it surreptitiously (and in poor light).