The Bank of Canada expects "dangerous levels" of currency counterfeiting to continue for up to three more years. Since 2001, counterfeiting has exploded in Canada, breaking historical records and making the country one of the worst in the world for the circulation of funny money.
Internal documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show counterfeiting has for years exceeded a little-known benchmark used by the central bank to signal when the problem has reached "dangerous levels."
The current threshold is 120 phony bills for every million banknotes in circulation, or 120 parts per million (ppm).
The benchmark, originally set at 100 in 1988, was raised to 120 in recent years just as the proliferation of inexpensive, high-tech copying equipment made Canadian bills a ripe target for counterfeiters.
"All denominations except the $5 (bill) continued to be above our historical threshold of 120 counterfeits detected per million genuine notes in circulation," says an internal report from December 2005.
"This threshold is now considered high by Canadian standards and is well above the level of concern used in other countries."
In 2004, the worst counterfeiting year in Canadian history, there were 470 phony bills for every million genuine notes circulating.
The number declined to 326 in 2005 as the bank introduced new bills with security features that were tougher to fake and as it stepped up education programs among retailers.
This year so far, the central bank has wrestled the number down to 277, still more than twice the benchmark as the currency remained well in the danger zone. The drop in counterfeit bills is a trend many retailers are seeing in Toronto, as many have not seen or felt a bad bill recently.
Robert Lazar, assistant manager of the Shell gas station on Spadina Ave., said he hasn’t seen a counterfeit bill in almost two years.
He’s been at this location since 1999 and said the problem was "horrible" a few years ago, adding the station could lose several hundred dollars a year to bad bills.