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All that glitters is not gold
by Charlotte Mcpherson

Australians are known for traveling the world before settling back down in their beautiful homeland. Like many, they want to see and experience the world. I had the opportunity to be on assignment and travel all over Europe, the Soviet Union, China and other places in the Near and Far East in the 1980s. There are a handful of cities around the world that have the ability to draw me back again and again. Some, like London, Hobart or Beijing and Karachi, do so because of the sheer visual pleasure of wandering around the streets, soaking up the sights and ambiance of the city. Others, like Sydney, Paris and Berlin, fill me with excitement and a sense of joie de vivre at just being there.

But there are only few -- where I not only love the city and find its people both interesting and friendly, but also get enveloped in the enormous sense of history that seems to put an extra lacquer, so to say, onto everything I see. Prague is such a city. So is Istanbul.

I live on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. I don't have as much time as I used to do to go to one of my favorite place, the Üsküdar ferryboat pier. I used to have more time to go and sit on a bench by the sea in nice weather and engage in my favorite pastime -- people-watching. Of course, on the European side the best place to go is the Grand Bazaar (known to be the largest covered market in the world).

When I people-watch, I don't just look at what they are wearing but try to imagine based on clothing and facial features what the person is like. I believe it was the British statesman, Lord Chesterfield who said, "You must look into people, as well as at them."

Another past time I have is collecting samples of different paper and coin currency from different countries. Hopefully none of the money is counterfeit!

In 2005, the new Turkish lira was introduced. The link for Turkey Travel Planner explains that with the change to the new lira, there's been an increase in counterfeiting of the new Turkish money, especially of YTL 50 notes. It's done two ways:

* Counterfeit notes are printed that do not have all of the official security features

* New Turkish lira with the official security features are altered to show a higher value (i.e., a YTL 1 note is altered to look like a YTL 50 or YTL 100 note)

If you are unsure how to check your Turkish lira, visit this link and learn how: http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/details/Money/ytl_notes.html.

Of course, it is not just the YTL. Other countries have counterfeiting problems. If you have a $20 bill in your pocket right now, do you know how to check its authenticity?

Counterfeit bills are actually difficult to detect -- if people don't know what to look for. It is worth purchasing and using one of the special bill marking pens.

Some say that you can't even trust a bank these days. One Today's Zaman reader wrote to me recently and said that she believed she received her counterfeit money from a bank but could not prove it. Well maybe the day has come we need to take more precaution and write down the serial numbers of every bill we collect and the name of the person who gave it to us...

Another Today's Zaman reader who I saw in the bookstore this past week told me that she had just been given some YTL 1 coins and the center of one of the coins came apart in her hand. It wasn't from my bookstore staff!

Counterfeiting is not just a problem overseas, but at home as well:

David Nichol, a Times-Herald staff writer, reported that Arkansas police issued a warning about counterfeit bills in 2005 to help Arkansans identify fake f ok$20 and $100 bills.

Some of you may remember hearing about the counterfeit ringleader, Ricky Scott Nelson, who in 2002 produced and successfully circulated hundreds of thousands of dollars in fake cash. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, it says he did it this way:

"He used mostly old-style $100 and $50 notes -- without the invisible markers implanted in post-1996 series currency -- that enabled his cash to fool many people and local retailers."

How can you protect yourself?

Whether you are a normal person taking your change at a store or you are a merchant accepting cash in your business, you need to be aware of the counterfeiting problem. Certainly we all need to look more carefully at any higher-denomination notes to make sure they are legitimate. A few seconds' inspection often suffices.

The Spanish writer Cervantes was right when he said, "All that glitters is not gold."


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