Venezuela's economic crisis paired with the rising value of the U.S. dollar on the world market has brought a new twist to counterfeit crime in Latin America.
Taking advantage of a thriving black market for dollars in neighboring Venezuela, Colombian forgers have begun churning out fake U.S. currency.
According to Colombian officials interviewed by the country's El Tiempo newspaper, the purchase price of fake $100 bills has doubled on the black market in just one year.
Currently, one U.S. dollar is officially worth about almost six and a half Venezuelan bolivars, but the isn't nearly enough hard currency in the country, and the black market exchange rate has soared to more than 800 bolivars to the dollar. Venezuelans are scrambling to get their hands on hard currency as prices for food stuffs and other basic goods have skyrocketed.
Last June, Fox News Latino reported that the price of the basic food basket jumped 19.9 percent, from 17,833 bolivars to 21,383 bolivars – roughly $3,400 at the official exchange rate.
This increase, estimated monthly by the Labor Documentation and Analysis Center (CENDA for its acronym in Spanish), represents almost three times Venezuela's monthly minimum wage of 7,421 bolivars.
While the increase of fake U.S. currency in Venezuela is worrisome for the socialist country, Colombian officials are also concerned about the bills being distributed in that country. The surge in counterfeiting has led to the reactivation of thought-to-be-defunct criminal groups – some of which had been displaced to neighboring countries like Peru or Ecuador.
Previously, fake money was thought to be produced for use in foreign nations, where it were sold for much higher prices, but Colombian officials told El Tiempo that citizens are now using the fake dollars to purchase imported products or vacations abroad.
For its part, the U.S. has tried to clamp down on the counterfeiting of the $100 – the most forged bill – by adding anti-counterfeiting features in 2013. The problem, however, is that older bills without those security measures are still accepted as legal tender.