The Law on Making or Using Counterfeit or Fake Money in Australia

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


In June 2020, a police hunt commenced for a woman believed responsible for duping a string of struggling businesses with fake $50 notes at Pooraka’s Paddy’s Markets in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.

Cool and composed, CCTV footage reveals the woman initially walked into a fresh food market where she grabbed two bags of pretzels, totalling $4.

She then proceeded to pay for them at the counter using an allegedly counterfeit $50 note – in return, pocketing $46 in real change.

The woman then went on to shop at three other stores in and around Pooraka’s Paddy’s Markets, where she continued to purchase items and simply hand over her phony fifties.

On one of her stops, she visited a barbeque hut, paying for a $2.50 sausage sandwich with another counterfeit $50 note.

On another stop, she entered a bird store where she purchased a $6 perch – the woman again getting away with real change and heartless wrongdoing.


A Kick in the Guts: Victims Were Just Getting Back on Their Feet After Being Forced to Close in Lockdown

For the victims of the woman and her fraud fifties, the scam came as a kick in the guts to small businesses who were struggling to get back on their feet after being forced to close for a month during lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis.

Market vendor, Donna Dohnt, said the theft was a cruel blow, especially knowing they had waited for weeks on end to reopen.

Speaking of the woman’s actions, Ms Dohnt said the impact was far-reaching.

“She must be struggling to go to that level but it hits all of us… it’s a chain reaction,” she said.

Meanwhile, Bird Shop business owner, Lyndon Goldsmith, said it didn’t take long for the woman to swindle his money.

Indeed, by the time he had noticed the counterfeit note, the woman had already fled the scene.

“Be very wary,” Mr Goldsmith advised.

“If in doubt, knock it back.”

The business owners informed the fake fifties stood out in that their colours were darker than usual, while the note itself had a slightly waxy feel to them.

Additionally, they noted the stars in the clear window also looked unevenly painted on.

The incident sparked public outrage, with users on social media condemning the woman’s actions.

“What a mug, everyone is struggling and you rip them off,” one user wrote.

“Post her pic,” urged another – a sentiment that was echoed as a fellow user encouraged to “post her mug all over the place so any money she does try to use isn’t creditable”.

One user even suggested to help out the struggling businesses, commenting, “Who thinks we should pitch in and give the places affected some money? Be a good idea if you ask me. I’m sure we could all afford say 5 bucks”.


What to Do If You Come Across Banknotes That You Suspect Are Counterfeit?

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, it is an offence to knowingly possess counterfeit banknotes.

If you come across a banknote that you suspect is counterfeit, you should immediately give it to State or Federal police.

Additionally, you should:

  • Handle the suspect banknote as little as possible and place it in an envelope
  • Note any relevant information about the note, including how it came into your possession.

It should be noted also that counterfeits banknotes have no value, so you will not be reimbursed for it.

If they prove to be genuine banknotes, however, you will receive full value for them.

It is within a person’s right to refuse to accept a banknote if you have concerns about it, while you should avoid taking actions that may jeopardise your safety or that of others.

The Law on Making or Using Counterfeit or Fake Money in Australia

What is ‘counterfeit money’? counterfeit money is defined in section 3 of the Crimes (Currency) Act 1981 (Cth). It includes any article, not being genuine coin or paper money, that resembles or is apparently intended to resemble, or pass for, a genuine coin or paper money.

It also includes any article that’s being a genuine coin or paper money, but that has been altered in a material respect, and in such a manner as to conceal, or to be apparently intended to conceal, the alteration.

The Commonwealth offence of making counterfeit money, also known as fake money attract up to 14-years imprisonment or if the offender is a body corporate, up to $166,500 fine, under section 6 Crimes (Currency) Act 1981 (Clth).

The Commonwealth offence of using or uttering counterfeit money knowing that it is counterfeit attracts up to 12-years imprisonment, or in the case of a body corporate up to $133,200, under section 7.

In NSW, making or using counterfeit money (fake money) knowing it is fake carries up to 10-years in jail pursuant to section 192E Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). This NSW offence is known as the charge of obtaining financial advantage or benefit by deception.

Have a question on fraud law? Call our specialist criminal defence lawyers today to book a free initial consult.

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