Ngau Tau Kok, Kowloon. Photo: Google Maps

Hong Kong police have warned people to remain vigilant after a photo of a fake HK$500 (US$64) banknote received by a pharmacy owner surfaced on social media and went viral.

A pharmacy owner surnamed Lee told Apple Daily that two mainland Chinese women, aged around 60, went to his store in Lok Wah Estate in Kowloon’s Ngau Tau Kok area at 4pm on Tuesday to buy four cans of infant formula.

The women paid him with one HK$1,000 note and two HK$500 notes. Lee checked the banknotes and found that one of the HK$500 notes was fake.

The fake banknote bore the serial number of HC597033 and lacked a security metallic thread. Simplified Chinese characters were printed on the blank area on the right side, saying “for practice only,” “specimen” and “circulation restricted.”

Lee said he figured out that the note was fake as the paper quality was different from a genuine one. The women told him they got the “banknotes” from automated teller machines.

Lee took a photo of the “banknote” before the women grabbed it back and left.

He said the pair had acted calmly even when he pointed out the fake banknote at the scene.

But Lee did not report the case to the police. The photo of the “banknote” later went viral on social media.

The police noted the issue and said the case would be further investigated by the Commercial Crime Bureau. They also urged the public to be vigilant, saying they should double-check each time they receive banknotes.

It was understood that imitation banknotes of this sort are for bank staffers to practice how to count money quickly by hand, and people could easily get a stack of them from online shopping site TaoBao.com. It costs only around 7 yuan (US$1.10) for 100 imitation banknotes with HK$1,000 face value.

Lawyer Albert Luk Wai-hung said people should not attempt to possess any suspected fake banknotes or they might be committing the offense of passing counterfeit notes under Section 99 of the Crimes Ordinance, which carries maximum prison terms of three years and 14 years for those who reuse fake banknotes.

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