Last updated on August 23rd, 2017

I love Colombia, but like any other country, the taxis in Colombia aren’t always the greatest. I was the victim of a taxi scam in the early morning hours of December 1, 2015, in Medellin. The driver gave me counterfeit Colombian Pesos (COP) for my change.

I celebrated Medellin’s Alborada from the San Felix hillside via a Chiva bus. After watching the fireworks, the Chiva dropped me off in El Poblado around 2 a.m. My apartment is in Laureles, so I took a taxi to the Estadio Metro Station. From here I could walk to my apartment.

The taxi ride costed about 11,000. I paid with a 50,000 COP bill. The taxi driver, who was in his mid 50’s, asked me if I had smaller bills, and I told him no. He asked me if I had a 1,000 COP bill, still I said no. He returned 40,000 COP (two 20,000 COP bills) in change, taking a 1,000 COP loss, or I thought.

I walked to my apartment and slept for a few hours. After dawn, I had to return to El Poblado via the metro. I went to Repostería El Portal to buy coffee and a pastry before my 10 a.m. class at Toucan Spanish. I owed about 8,000 COP for the purchase. I paid the cashier with the same 20,000 COP bill I received from the taxi. The cashier viewed the bill and asked her manager to check it. The manager told me it was fake – what the fuck. She ripped up the bill, and I paid with a legit 50,000 COP bill I had with me. I still had the other 20,000 COP counterfeit bill in my pocket.

The fake 20,000 COP bill looks identical to the real one (obviously). I tried to compare them. I noticed the fake bill was missing characters on the broken lined hologram (or shiny metal coating). Other than this, I couldn’t tell much of a difference.

Hologram on 20,000 Colombian Currency Note, taxi scam with Colombian Pesos

Left: Hologram (metal coating) of an authentic 20,000 Colombian Note.
Right: Counterfeit version with characters missing.

I returned to the Repostería El Portal next morning before class. This time I asked the manager how she could tell the bill is a fake. She told me to feel the texture of the paper. The real bills have a rugged (uneven or raised) feel to the paper. The fake ones feel smooth. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right lens to photograph the difference in texture between the two types of paper.

Can you guess the first country I started using Uber? Yup, Colombia.

Verify the Authenticity of Colombian Pesos

I now check the hologram strip and feel the paper texture on 20,000 COP bills whenever I receive change. The 50,000 COP bill also has the hologram strip; however, I withdraw 50,000 COP bills directly from the bank so I expect them to be authentic. The lower denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 don’t have the hologram from what I observed. It’s also difficult to determine if the bills are authentic if they are worn out.

If you’re Spanish is good, you can read tips on how to detect counterfeit Colombian Pesos at the Central Bank of Colombia.

This was my fourth time traveling to Colombia and first time victim of this taxi scam (or at least I know of). I now try and keep smaller bills for these taxi buggers.

Don’t be a sucker like me; watch out for this counterfeit taxi scam and keep as much of your Colombian Pesos to yourself.

Colombia Counterfeiting Raid