Falso! Parte Dos – How to Tell If Your Money is Fake in Bolivia

26 February 2010 at 05:36 8 comments

By Sheethal Shobowale, KF10, Bolivia

If you haven’t read my other entry on false money in Peru, please consider reading that entry: Falso! A Musing on Fake Money in Peru before this one.  This is the follow-up.

Since I started working in La Paz, Bolivia with microfinance institution and Kiva partner Emprender, one of the first things I wanted to learn was how to tell a fake Bolivian bill from a real one.

No False Bills Accepted Here! Caja (Cashier) at Emprender

No False Bills Accepted Here!

Every Emprender office has a caja (cashier) where clients get their loan disbursement and pay their loan payments. Each cashier has a sign that says “Every fake bill will be perforated” with a sample fake bill stuck on the window.

The institution is vigilant about fake bills.  When a client pays their loan payment, their initials are marked on the bill and the cashier examines it to determine its authenticity.  In the case it is deemed to be false, the bill is returned to its owner and the payment must be made again.

Here’s a video of the cashier at the Pampahasi branch of Emprender in La Paz showing me several ways of distinguishing a false bill from a real one:

And here are some tips on how to tell if your bills are real or fake –

  • The easiest way to tell if a bill is real is to rub some water on it.  If the ink bleeds, the bill is fake.

Other ways include –

  • Texture in the engraving.  Run your thumb across the bottom right corner of the bill and the two lines usually at the top left
  • You should see a faint BCB (Banco Central de Bolivia) when you look across the bill at eye level.  It shouldn’t be too obvious.  It’s a subtle embossing
  • There should be a shadow of the portrait on the left side of the bill
  • There is a square symbol on the left side of the bill.  On both sides of the bill, this shape should be in the same spot.  If there is any variation, the bill is fake.

Any special ways to tell real bills from fake ones in your country?  Please feel free to share in the comments!

Please consider lending to Bolivian entrepreneurs that pay their loan payments with AUTHENTIC Bolivian bills.

Sheethal Shobowale is currently serving as a Kiva Fellow at microfinance institution Emprender.  Follow LethalSheethal on Twitter for more quirky stories from Bolivia.

Entry filed under: blogsherpa, Bolivia, Emprender, KF10 (Kiva Fellows 10th Class), Peru. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

Not so micro credit The Royal Rumble: Yunus v. Compartamos


  • 1. marydear  |  28 February 2010 at 20:31

    Fun post(s) – thanks Sheethal!

  • 3. Fehmeen  |  26 February 2010 at 12:23

    I’m surprised counterfeiters don’t put the effort into this anymore (which is a good sign) because the bleeding-ink method is extremely basic! Here, in Pakistan, we tend to rub a certain portion of a bill and if we don’t feel a light engraving, we know it’s fake. But really, hardly anyone does that here.

    • 4. lethalsheethal  |  8 March 2010 at 12:36

      I know. I thought so too. But that’s what the cashier told me and he definitely knows more than me!

      Thanks for your comment!

  • 5. Richard Middleton  |  26 February 2010 at 10:06

    Some fakes are still in circulation and much prized! Some years ago I was working near in Faiyoum, Egypt, and was very excited to find what appeared to be an 18th century Maria Theresa dollar (originally minted in Joachimsthaler, Austria, hence our “dollar”). I bought the coin for its silver value, and thought I had made a phenomenal deal. However, my uncle, who was a diplomat in various countries in that part of the world for many years, told me that these coins were actually fakes minted by the British government to support the Revolt in the Desert during WWI (“Lawrence of Arabia” and all that), because the Bedu would not accept anything except the pure silver coins with which they were familiar. Still, getting a coin nearly a century old for its bullion value is still a bargain.

    • 6. lethalsheethal  |  8 March 2010 at 12:37

      That’s pretty cool Richard. I’ve seen old money for sale here in Bolivia and Peru as well. I would imagine for a collector this money is priceless!

  • 7. adamkb  |  26 February 2010 at 09:34

    Here´s a deal: if you find a fake Bolivian bill, I´ll buy it off you for face value. If no bill before the end of March, you buy me lunch. We on?

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