A quick perusal of recent news stories using the keyword “counterfeit money” reveals the most simple and clear evidence that counterfeiting of US dollars is still a thriving industry. Many people assume that – with the pandemic causing lower volumes of in-store transactions - counterfeiting activity would similarly be much lower. But the data does not support this.
Ever since the signing of an armistice in 1953 that put a stop to the fighting in the Korean War, North Korea and its activities has more or less been a mystery to the world. What little is known about the country is inherently grim: the county is internationally considered to be one of the worst offenders when it comes to human rights and continually tops the list of the “World’s Most Isolated Countries.”
Even lesser known than human rights atrocities is exactly how North Korea funds its economy. Although North Korea participates in legal economic activities, such as selling natural resources, analysts agree that the level of these legal activities is nowhere near enough to sustain a country the size of North Korea. Indeed, there has been evidence that North Korea has been profiting from the illegal drug trade for several decades.
Eventually, in a search to find more sources of income, North Korea figured out something that counterfeiters around the world have already figured out: manufacturing counterfeit money is much more profitable and less risky than producing and selling drugs.
And thanks to the fact that North Korea has physically segregated itself from the rest of the world, they directed their efforts to counterfeit money production - without the rest of the world catching on – and got good, really good at making counterfeit money. So much so that when North Korean counterfeit bills slipped into foreign circulation, no one was the wiser; and when the world finally did catch on, they were dubbed as “supernotes” – because they were so good that they were virtually indistinguishable from real money to all but the most sophisticated of counterfeit detection equipment.
And that is a major problem.
For decades, Colombia was known as the world leader in counterfeit money production. For the last several years, however, thanks to the collision of a variety of factors, Peru has overtaken Colombia as the counterfeit money production leader of the world. In a nutshell, Peruvian counterfeiters have access to cheaper materials and labor, are subjected to law enforcement and regulations that are, in comparison, more lax and less effective, and, by all accounts, are simply more meticulous when it comes to counterfeit money production than anyone else.