The use of cash payments at fairs will increase during the summer season, giving criminals the opportunity to circulate counterfeit currency, which is why police are recommending sellers inspect any money as they receive it.
Over the past month, more than 60 incidents of the use of counterfeit currency have been registered in Tallinn and Harju County, which is more than twice the number of incidents during the same time period last year, police spokesperson Marie Aava told ERR.
A few weeks ago, the number of such incidents registered with the police increased significantly.
On May 24, a 17-year-old was arrested in Tallinn on suspicion of disseminating counterfeit currency. The previously unpunished young man is alleged to have used counterfeit money as payment at markets and shopping centers' outdoor counters.
The young man would allegedly pick out a product worth a couple of euros, pay for it with a counterfeit €50 bill and receive authentic money in change. Police suspect that the young man used counterfeit currency for payments on more than ten occasions.
According to North Prefecture Criminal Bureau director Juhan Ojasoo, the sharp increase in the number of such incidents often suggests that somebody is actively disseminating the counterfeit currency.
The circulation of counterfeit currency picks up speed in summer, during which large events, fairs and outdoor sales counters are more common.
"A common denominator is cash, which is used by a large number of people at outdoor events and fairs," said Ojasoo, who found that it is in sellers' own best interests to employ as many methods as possible in order to avoid becoming a victim of counterfeit payments.
"I understand that there are often many clients, the tempo is high and sellers don't have the time to examine bills more carefully," he explained. "It is also not always possible for sellers to identify well-made counterfeits at an expert level. At the same time, there are simple yet effective ways to do a swift check in case of suspicion, such as note the material and security features of the bill."
According to the police official, the most reliable method of verifying currency is to use an automatic currency detector.
"This should be considered especially if payments are made using larger bills," said Ojasoo. "Counterfeit €50 bills remain the most widely circulated in Estonia. As an alternative, I recommend using card payments, which is apparently one of the most secure methods of payment."
This April, 31 counterfeit currency-related incidents were registered in Harju County. By may, this number had jumped to 61, up from just 29 during the same month last year.
Editor: Aili Vahtla