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How NOT to get duped with Play Money Like We Did

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I honestly never thought we would get caught accepting play money BUT it happened.

Let me tell you how it happened and what you can do to make sure you’re not getting duped too!

If you think we were silly enough to be handed Monopoly money and accept it, think again.

I’m pretty sure any cashier would spot that from a mile away and likely laugh it off because we all know you can’t pay for goods and services with play money. Or can you?

My wife and I are huge finance buffs as you can tell from reading this blog and saving money is important to us.

If we can save a dollar on toilet paper with a coupon or even using coupon apps to get further discounts we will do it.

The point here is that all these dollars and cents add up over the course of the year. Why work hard for your money if you don’t care where the small stuff goes?

While shopping for bits and bobs at our local Dollarama store the other day with our son in tow we went to the cash register like any normal customers and paid for our order. We hardly ever use our debit card and since they don’t accept credit cards at the Dollar Store we paid with cash. No funny money just certified government funds.

These days with the newest plastic polymer based version of Canadian banknotes most shops have no need for counterfeit money detection devices of sorts at the cash.

Apparently it’s near impossible to print fake Canadian money with the new banknotes but the coins are still fair game for those out to make a buck or two, illegally of course. I’m not suggesting it by any means and us being duped wasn’t with illegal funds. The point is that it is still possible.

In 2014 according to Currency Counterfeiting Statistics Canada 62,418 counterfeit banknotes were passed in Canada compared to 552,980 in 2004. Of that in 2014 $20 bills took top rank with 74% counterfeit and $100 bills at 24%. Of the counterfeit money seized in 2014 Ontario held the top spot with 44% or 31,456 counterfeit banknotes passed. That’s lots of money and likely while we were transitioning over to the new banknotes.

In the past the cashier may swipe or hold the bill up to a special UV light scanner to check and make sure it is not fake money or play money which are two different things. Some shops wouldn’t even accept $50 or $100 bills for fear they were fake money. Actually back in May when we went for a visit to the Botanical Gardens in Hamilton they did not accept our $100 bills. There was a sign there as well so some shops still don’t accept larger bills.

What is the difference between fake and play money?


Fake Money


Fake Money is where some morons think that they have the right or licence to print fake money to spend because getting a job like the rest of society is too much work for them. They will go as far as to photocopying money, print money or even more elaborate set ups that make fake money look realistic, hence the detection devices.


Play Money


Play Money sometimes does look like realistic fake money but it’s simply used by kids to understand money. Our son has a cash register with play money although we don’t let him play with that yet as he’s too young. You may recall Monopoly money or even coins from the Dollar store in pirate sets or chocolate play money coins. Either way it’s meant to be played with NOT spent as real money.

Crooks will do anything so if they can buy fake money that looks real, they will do it.


We got caught not paying attention


So, as we check-out we read over our receipt quickly as we suggest everyone should do and then wish the cashier a lovely evening and get on with our shopping journey. It wasn’t until we we were getting ready to take our son to his swimming lessons this morning that we realized we got duped with play money.

My wife was sorting through the change in her purse to get the funds needed to go to the pool. While we are at the pool the lockers where we keep our belongings cost $0.25 so she was separating the money out on the kitchen table so we weren’t scrambling for cash like we normally do.

Of course I checked the coins she left on the kitchen table for me and started to laugh. My wife was in the shower so I went to go and ask her what I was supposed to do with the Chuck E. Cheese token she left for me. She said, “The what?” and that’s when it hit me.

She had no idea she had this play money. I laughed and then thought, wait a minute. We went to the dollar store to save money yet it cost me more money because the cashier didn’t realize she was paid with play money and then she passed it along to us.

The Chuck E. Cheese tokens for any of you that are not familiar with them are gold and about the size of a quarter but could easily be passed off as a Loonie. This was what happened to my wife.

I had no idea what the heck Chuck E. Cheese was until I looked it up online. It’s a restaurant for kids with play areas and video games. The kids use tokens to play these games and are given tickets after they play to redeem for Chuck E. Cheese swag.

We did the math with the change we received and yes we were paid a Chuck E. Cheese token as a Loonie or one dollar coin. Great! It was funny in the moment but then I realized that if the cashier didn’t spot it and we didn’t spot it there are people out there that are probably using these coins as real money. Sure, it could have been an accident but what if it wasn’t?

So, we’re out a buck big deal right?

Well, if we thought about money as no big deal we wouldn’t be debt free today. There are ways to protect yourself when dealing with Canadian Currency. Although most of us don’t have counterfeit money detection devices we can inspect our money before accepting it to make sure it at least looks real.

The Bank of Canada has some great tips to help Canadians figure out if they have been passed Counterfeit money but they don’t really get into the aspect of coins. Likely because it’s not a big business, yet! Thieves will find a new way to make money fast without doing hard work so if it’s with coins they will find a loop-hole.

Counterfeit prevention checking, preventing and reporting is up to us so it’s important to take responsibility for our hard-earned money. If you are a business owner you are urged to educate your staff so they know how to spot fake money.

So how can you spot play money before it ends up in your wallet?

Easy, make sure you take a moment to inspect the banknotes and coins given to you with every cash transaction you complete. The likelihood of finding fake banknotes may be slim these days but don’t be fooled like we were with our coins. It may seem silly BUT what is worse is admitting that you were given Chuck E. Cheese Tokens and didn’t catch it until days later.

No, we didn’t go back to the store BUT we are now aware that we could be losing money especially if play money is the new way to pay for stuff because it’s easy to get away with.

So, I guess we will keep our Chuck E. Cheese coin tucked away until the time comes our son has a birthday party and maybe we can spend the play money we should never have gotten in the first place.

Have you ever been given fake or play money before? What did you do?

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  1. I’ve been given American change on a purchase but I just toss it in my wallet with the rest of my change.it gets spent along the way. Nobody will care or be bothered with taking it to the bank to exchange the coinage. Back when I worked retail we took the American paper money as payment and figured the exchange rate on it for the customer. We then took it to the bank for exchange at that days rate. This was done as good business practise as there is no law to say we had to offer exchange.
    Like others I have received other countries coinage in change. We tend to keep in a drawer just because it is different to have. Some of it looks rather cool!! I wonder if the Chucky Cheese coin was done by accident or not…. From what little I have seen of those type of tokens they tend to be lighter in weight than real money…. Good to keep an eye out anyway….

    1. My wife said the same thing about American coin. She just uses it but hardly ever gets it. At least it’s real money and not Chuck E. CHeese Tokens lol. It is a bit lighter yes and it could have been done in error or someone was short cash and thought they would see if they could get away with it. Worse case scenario they say, Oops but it’s useless to the next person. I should just try and spend it back at the Dollar store. Tell them they gave it to me and now they can have it back lol. Jk.

  2. I have never gotten play money back before but every once in awhile I will get a coin from another country back. I may need to take a closer look in the future if I ever get $1 coins back though to make sure I’m not getting any tokens 🙂

    1. Oh we’ve had that happen too! Most times it’s just American money which is fine because we can use it here no problem. It was embarrassing to admit but I thought I should just let people know to be aware of the coins they are getting back.

  3. A couple of year ago, the Director of Treasury, for the company I work for, was passed a $5.00 from the bank. Due to that incident, she had the Bank of Canada come in and give a workshop to the Finance department. We were all given a credit card size of a $20.00 to practice and view the security features of the “old” money, in addition, we also received a book that goes thru these security features. I laugh at business that use those laser lights because those lights do squat (most of the time) in catching a fake bill. You can tell more about whether the bill is fake by looking and feeling it than using one of those machines.

    1. That’s good to know I had no idea. With the new bills now they said it would be pretty hard to duplicate them which is nice to know. I am watching everything now. It was hard enough learning Canadian currency when I was used to UK money so most times I wouldn’t have blinked an eye at the coins. Now, I know better.

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