Counterfeit Bills and Magic Mustard on Your Head


Sep 16, 2009
I went to the Subte this morning to purchase a new 10 ride pass and quickly found out that I was trying to spend counterfeit money. I think a cab driver gave me the fake bills. Luckily, I had enough real money to get the 10 trip pass but it was definitely an eye opening experience. I have never been given counterfeit money, that I am aware of, in any of my travels. Luckily, there were only a couple counterfeit bills so the damage was minimal.

My Argentinian cowokers sympathized, said it has happened to them before as well. They gave me a list of things to look for:

1. Did you pay a 10 peso cab fare with a 100 peso bill? Be sure to check out all the bills you receive back, especially if the driver gives you change in many smaller denominations. There may be a fake bill somewhere in the middle of the stack. Dont feel like you are inconveniencing the cab driver by sitting in the cab and examining the bills, even if there is traffic honking behind him. Pulling over in a spot he knows people will honk at him may be part of the scheme to make you feel pressure to exit the cab without looking through your money. Do not succumb to the pressure - you have a right to sit in the cab and make sure the money is legit - he/she can pull off to a side street if the traffic behind you is not happy.

2. The fake watermark in the fake bills are actually very easy to spot. Hold a bill up to the light. You will see a fairly detailed image. A fake bill also has an image but it is much less detailed. It is much easier to see this if you actually have a fake bill to compare a real bill against. The fake image is actually laughable when you compare it to a real bill.

3. Real bills have raised/textured areas. In particular, at least one of the numbers on the bill is raised/textured (the top-left number on the face side of the bill). All of them may be as well, not sure. You can feel the texture of the number if you rub your finger (fingernail works better for me) over the number. The fake bills dont have this texture anywhere and are very smooth to the touch.

4. The paper fake bills are printed on is convincing but it is relatively easy to spot when compared side by side to a real bill. This is true with the fake bills I received but there may be better counterfeit bills out there. The paper looks much closer to standard 8X11 paper but more convincing. I dont know what they did to the paper, or what type of paper it actually is however it is convincing until you compare it side by side to a real bill.

5. Radio Taxi is good. My Argentinian coworkers seem convinced that it was not a Radio Taxi driver. Im not sure what kind of taxi it was but they seem pretty set on the fact that it likely was a non-Radio Taxi vehicle. I will heed their advice to take Radio Taxi cars only.

The mustard pick pocket. A buddy of mine was here and thought a pigeon pooped on him. It turned out to be mustard - he had no idea where it came from. He was a little upset, scanned for a mustard source briefly and began cleaning the mustard off his head/shirt. At some point during the realization and reaction processes he was pick pocketed. A little insult to injury I guess. The lessons I am taking from this are 1) 'secure' your money in your pockets as well as possible 2) recognize that something else may be going on if mustard/mayonnaise/ketchup/<insert fluid> begins falling out of the sky or suddenly ends up on your person.

A lot of common sense but sometimes the day to day hustle makes use gloss over the basics.

Any other stories/suggestions on ways to prevent counterfeiting/pick pockets would be great to hear!

rather sheepishly raising my hand to be taken with this scam as well. the taxi driver that got me took a genuine 100, did a swap with a fake and then said i had given him bad money. it was only when i got home did i realise what had happened as the 100 had come from the bank and was almost certainly genuine. at least now i know what to look for. fool me once....
FYI, there also seems to be a problem now with fake 100 USD bills being used for transactions in Mercado Libre. I took 3 100 USD bills to my bank in the US and they were fake. But the tellers/branch manager were impressed and said they were "really good fakes"!
I'm just impressed that you found a taxi driver that would let you pay with a 100 ;) Yes, worth double-checking every bill and also do it at the bank. I have gotten bad bills from an ATM 2x (once it was a fake, once it was ripped so unusable).

When you get into a taxi try to have the money prepared beforehand, normally a taxi ride is 15 or 20 pesos try to have if possible 10 pesos bills.
citygirl said:
I'm just impressed that you found a taxi driver that would let you pay with a 100 ;) Yes, worth double-checking every bill and also do it at the bank. I have gotten bad bills from an ATM 2x (once it was a fake, once it was ripped so unusable).

In this situation, were you just SOL?
I got handed one of these in a cab- it was late at night- the light in the cab did not work- but I could tell it was fake. The driver was in a hurry to get us out of the cab- I told him it was falso- but he said it was not. I have now learned a new strategy to dealing with this.

Sometimes you only have a 100 peso bill. It will happen to you.... so when you get into the cab, you tell them that you only have a 100 peso bill. Ask them if they have change- if they say yes- tell them that you are not interested in getting a fake 50. When you need to pay- hold onto your 100- let the cabbie grab his change- if there is a 50- make him hold it up to a light. Also hold your 100 peso bill up to a light- and show the cabbie it is real. Then you can exchange money....

There is also a scam where the cab driver will tell you you only gave him a 10 when you gave him a 100- they switch it very quickly. Another reason to hold onto your money until the cabbie gets his change.
We experienced the "bird poop". In retrospect, any bird who could have created that much poop (it was all over our backs and the backs of our pants) would have had to have been a large buzzard preparing for a colonoscopy!! I'm certain that we were shot at with squirt guns full of some white substance. (It came off at the cleaners.) Two "friendly, helpful" strangers informed us of said mishap and proceeded to, oh so kindly, help remove it w/napkins and water from a small bottle. We didn't know that they had reached into my husband's front jeans pocket, taken out his travel wallet (OK, "in retrospect" we know it should not have been in a pocket!) removed a debit card and a credit card from him and taken my driver's license out of my small, zippered purse which barely protruded from beneath my leather jacket, until our credit card company contacted us on our Magic Jack several hours later. (Sorry about the long sentence...their entire "caper" took less time than writing it!) To read more about that adventure and about the great time we are enjoying in BsAs, check out our
Thanks for all the advice and stories. Really helps - i have been more diligent about carrying smaller denominations but im sure there will be a time soon when I end up in a cab with just a 100 peso bill. Thanks @SkiBunny for the advice regarding managing the exchange of cash with the cab driver - i will most definitely be doing that in the future.

Yeah...i sure hope the bird poop scam doesnt happen to me, but i will definitely refuse any immediate help should a buzzard unload myself or somebody I am with.