Sometimes being scammed or receiving your first fake bank note in South America can be like receiving a free kick in the balls – if you’ve got them. The skill of picking up on fake bank notes is an easy one. Coming from a first-world country it’s not always expected that the paper you’ll receive, as money, has a value similar to paper itself – nothing. In a city such as Buenos Aires the fake notes are very prominent. More so in the fifty peso notes, though. Although, you do get the them in the lower notes from time to time, too. The first time it happened to me was back in 2009. The process: you handover the money (fake note) and the cashier hands it back and says ‘es falso,’ then laughs in your face.
The key to preventing being scammed is to look for a reflection of a shadowed head through the note. In order to do this you’ll need to provide light on the opposite side of the note to see a reflecting head coming through. You can hold it up to the sunlight, although, I’m not always a fan of flashing 50 peso notes around in South America. I tend to do a subtle placement of the note on top of my mobile phone, then hit one of the buttons on it to create light for the head’s reflection. Some notes have been prepared almost perfectly. However even if so, they won’t have the head’s reflection. It’s important to check all notes. Especially if receiving them from Taxi drivers. Those bastards can be the only arss-holes you’ll meet in Argentina at times and many are on the lookout to rob gringos anyway they can. There are nice one, too – I’ve been told.
Sometimes there will be nightclubs and bars in prominent tourist areas who prey on gringos with their fake cash, too. They hand it to you as change after you’ve provided a decent 100 peso note.
So, all you need is: a bank note and a light to help you keep to your budget during your travel in South America.