Phony money marked with Chinese characters is being circulated in Iowa City

A fake $100 bill stamped with Chinese characters — photo courtesy of the Iowa City Police Department

The Iowa City Police Department (ICPD) issued a warning on Thursday about phony money of various denominations being passed in the Iowa City area. According to the ICPD statement, these are “fake bills on poor quality paper, displaying Chinese characters printed on the front and back, in bright red or pink ink.”

These bills began appearing around the United States last year, and have been identified as “training money” created to help bank employees in China become familiar with foreign currency. The first of these bills to show up in Iowa were found in Mason City and the Sioux City area in December. Similar bills imitating Australian and Canadian currency have also been passed in those countries. The Chinese characters stamped on the bills reportedly identify the bills, explaining they aren’t real currency or intended for circulation, but that isn’t much help to anyone who can’t read those characters.

Various websites offer Chinese training currency for sale, and it is not illegal to possess the bills, just to use them to pay for anything.

The ICPD has advice on how to recognize fake bills on its website.