Fake Money in Argentina

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I mentioned the problem of counterfeit currency here in Argentina in an earlier post called 15 Money Tips for Travelers in Argentina, but the practice seems to be becoming more pervasive, so let’s update those tips and include a lesson on how to spot fake bills. (If you think you already know how, try our quiz to test your skills). 

Why the update? Well, our last guests in The Loft exchanged US dollars at the airport and were given 200 pesos worth of fake bills. At the airport! They didn’t realize they were fake until they tried to pay a cab driver with one. He handed it back telling them it was a fake.

I thought that the cab driver might have actually switched out their real bill for a fake one (that’s #7 on my list of 15 money tips). But they assured me that’s not how it happened and when we checked the rest of their bills, they had three fakes in total.

How to Spot Fake Argentinean Currency

Hold the bill up in front of a light. You will be looking for a couple of things as you do this. Have a look at these photos below. In both photos, the top bill is real and the bottom one is fake.

Fake Argentine Pesos Watermarks

Real vs. Fake Argentine Pesos

The Watermark

You should see a clear and very well defined watermark of the face of the ex-president that’s on the bill. Look at these photos above. The watermarks on the top are well defined even in the shadows. The lines are clear and clean. The fake on the left is pretty good, but the shadows don’t have the definition. The fake on the right is pathetic. Also, be sure to flip the bill over and look at it from both sides. You can typically spot a fake watermark when you look at the back side of it because it’s been printed on that side and it isn’t a watermark at all.

The Initials

Below the face, you should see the initials of that ex-president. On the 100s, the ex-president is Julio Argentino Roca (JAR). The fake on the right (in the photos above) doesn’t have any initials at all. The one on the left has initials, but when you’ve seen enough real pesos, you can tell this one doesn’t look right. The letters are too thin and not enough light is passing through. The details overall are fuzzy.

Fake vs. Real Argentine Pesos

An example of a really terrible fake 100 Argentine peso note.

How about in this one above? It’s an awful fake, but do you notice anything besides the watermark that’s different?

The Solid Line

Before you hold a bill up to have the light show through it, you’ll see a vertical line of silver-like dashes. On the bad fakes, the dashes are clearly painted on. Notice how when you hold the bill up to the light, the dashed line turns to a solid black line and it has writing on it. It should have the denomination of the actual bill on it, but it’s tiny and a bit hard to read. Look back at the photos above. Notice how in each case, the real bill (i.e. the top one) has a vertical line and each of the fakes on the bottom remain dashed lines.

Look closely at the strip. You should see the 100 denomination.

The Paper

The last way and probably most common first step in identifying a fake is to feel the paper. But if you’ve never felt pesos, you aren’t sure what the paper should feel like. I can typically tell when I’m holding a fake just by the way the paper feels. It feels like printer paper.

Rub your finger over the denomination (i.e. the 100, 50, etc.) in the bottom right corner. It shouldn’t be smooth. There is a slight roughness where the numbers are raised.

The Serial Numbers

And while this will only be a clue if you’re being given a few fakes together that were made by the same person, the serial numbers should all be different. The couple that was given 200 fake pesos at the airport got these two fifty notes. Both notes had the exact same serial numbers. The horizontal numbers at the top right and the vertical numbers on the left side should be the same.

Though this is a fake, the serial numbers at the top and on the side match. But if you are given two notes that end in 48C, there’s a problem.

How to Avoid Being Given Fake Pesos

When you exchange money, check each note. Hold it up to the light right there in front of the cashier. Don’t worry that you’re taking too long even if there is a long line. Hold up each note and check it. If you detect a fake, hand it back.  Do the same when you’re given 100s or 50s anywhere. People will not be offended. Checking bills is totally normal here.

You won’t likely get fake money from an ATM, but if you do for some reason, you’ll need to go into the bank and see if they’ll change it. I’ve been here four years and I use ATMs all the time. I’ve never gotten fake money from one though I have heard that others have.

Quick update. Deanna commented below that she got fake bills from an ATM on Calle Florida.


And to keep a taxi driver from giving you a fake bill, you should do your best to pay with small notes and as close to the amount as possible. But when you have no choice but to pay with a 100 or 50 peso note, before you hand it to the driver, hold it up to the light so he can see you checking the watermark and strip. Then, remember the serial number (the last two digits and the letter) and tell him you’re handing him the note that ends in that number. He won’t be able to switch it out because the numbers will not match.

Take the Quiz: Fake or Real?

Do you guys have any other tips I missed? 


15 Comments To This Article… add one

          • Sheila

            October 2, 2011, 4:14 am Reply

            Thank you so much for these tips! They will definitely come in handy when we visit Argentina early next year.

          • Angela @SanTelmoLoft

            October 3, 2011, 7:08 pm Reply

            Glad you saw this blog before coming. You’ll know what to look for. Have a great trip, Sheila!

          • Deanna

            July 24, 2011, 12:43 am Reply

            Thank goodness we took a receipt. It was Banco Patagonia, 999 Florida. We cannot be entirely sure that all our fake bills came from there, but given the fact that on Friday we drew out $1,000 pesos, received 10 $100 bills, and by Sat morning had discovered that 6 of them were fake… Well, seems pretty good odds that our fake bills came from the ATM.

          • Angela @SanTelmoLoft

            July 24, 2011, 10:53 am Reply

            Well, if you do try to get it resolved (whether with your bank back home or Banco Patagonia), we’d love to know how it turns out. I tend to use Banco Galicia ATMs and haven’t had the problem. Once, I got some torn 100s from an Itau ATM. If the serial numbers are torn people won’t accept the bill. I went back in and had to wait in the long line to get them changed. It was quite a struggle. I, too, had the receipt and the only bills I had were those from the ATM so they couldn’t say I was trying to pull a scam. Since Banco Frances is the only bank that will actually exchange dollars for people without an account, they might be a more legit bank. Argentine banks have a terrible reputation for customer service. That may need to be an upcoming post. Best of luck, Deanna!

          • Lawrence

            December 23, 2012, 11:05 am Reply

            That is the EXACT bank where I received one fake $100 peso bill from the ATM when I withdrew $500. I went in and spoke to the manager and he would do nothing for me. I consider myself lucky it was only a $20 loss.

          • Angela @SanTelmoLoft

            December 24, 2012, 12:08 am Reply

            Wow. Sounds like someone working at the bank is doing this then. Thank you for letting us know. Wish I had a solution that was 100%.

          • Deanna

            July 23, 2011, 4:33 pm Reply

            Thank you for posting this article. We are in BA this week on vacation and yesterday we found that we had received six fake $100 peso bills from an ATM at the end of Calle Florida, near Avenida Santa Fe. We had no idea that the fraud with currency here was so bad! There doesn’t seem to be anything we can do at this point — we’ve lost $150 USD. But now we know what to look for, going forward.

          • Angela @SanTelmoLoft

            July 23, 2011, 8:45 pm Reply

            Wow. From an ATM. I’d heard that it’s happened to others, but no one I know personally. What a bummer. Do you know/remember if the ATM was associated with a bank? I don’t know if that matters, but it might be good to get a poll of which banks are “safest”. Thanks for posting and hope you enjoy the rest of your trip here.

          • Kethan

            August 12, 2011, 7:12 am Reply

            And I was just wonedirng about that too!

          • Beatrice M

            July 22, 2011, 7:14 pm Reply

            Great info! Just a note about the serial numbers on the 100 peso bills. Because Argentina gave Brazil the go ahead to print money for them, the Brazilian printed pesos have different serial numbers. They are still valid currency, but the serial numbers are horizontal and also the font doesn’t increase in size. See this PDF the Central Bank of Argentina put out.

          • Angela @SanTelmoLoft

            July 23, 2011, 8:43 pm Reply

            Thanks, Beatrice. It can be confusing with the two versions out there that are valid. I’d forgotten about these differences. Cheers!

          • Jason

            October 23, 2013, 7:45 pm Reply


            Can you also send me the address to money changer on Corrientes?
            We are coming in dec. I think on the facebook page, the current blue dollar is 1 to 10ish?


          • Angela

            October 24, 2013, 12:12 am Reply

            Awesome! That’s a great rate. I’ll send you a message now. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

          • Jasper

            November 20, 2013, 1:40 pm Reply

            Hi Angela, could you provide us with the address as well? We’re leaving in two days :).

          • Anonymous

            December 6, 2013, 10:30 pm Reply

            there no are diferences only in the number but is not important only must to check in the security tips
            1-continuous line must say BCRA 100 the
            2-water print of quality and initials JAR.
            3- te paper if u touch a fake one is easy to see the bad quality of printing an paper . also u can to scratch under the face in the shoulder of the suit and note if is a rough surface that is the most efficient and easy test because if is soft and no a rough surface is fake . try scratch with your fingernail a legal one and u will note this

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