Business Weirdness

OMG did Hong Leong Bank actually give their customer fake Ringgit notes?

When it comes to fake money, a lot of us would know about it from watching movies where the bad guy is trying to figure out a way to make fake money that is very hard to detect. Sadly we can’t think of any other movie right now other than Rush Hour 2.

We’re talking about this because there was actually quite a bit of news about fake money. As the story goes, about a week ago a woman went to a Hong Leong Bank to withdraw RM40k from a Hong Leong Bank branch in Salak South, Kuala Lumpur. We don’t know why she was withdrawing that much money in cash, but among the stacks of money were 5 seemingly fake RM100 notes!

fake notes hong leong

Screencap from The Rojak Pot’s YouTube video.

And it seems that the woman went back pretty angry. Hong Leong also seemed to take the matter very seriously because they released a statement addressing the issue just a day later, but here’s the thing….


These are not fake notes but some-other-kind-of-problem note

In their statement, Hong Leong actually refer to these notes as “mutilated” Ringgit notes (or wang kertas cacat in Malay), and yes, there is a difference between a mutilated note and a fake note.

So this is what Bank Negara Malaysia defines as a mutilated note:

“Notes which have been damaged or the appearance of which have become changed, by accidental contact with water, oil, paint, ink or similar substance or by a portion or portions having become missing.” – Bank Negara Malaysia

In other words, a mutilated note is a note that doesn’t look like a legit note anymore OR kena koyak di. And for this particular Hong Leong case, it looks like the former because the notes looked like they had been…discoloured.

Besides that, Bank Negara also lists down other cases of problem notes like Defaced notes, which are notes that people conteng on, and Doubtful cases, which are basically pieces of notes which are so small that you can’t tell if it actually belonged to an actual Ringgit note or not.

defaced australian dollar

Image from Imgur.

But why is Bank Negara so detailed when it comes to describing notes that have issues with them? Well it’s actually because…


Actually some of this notes can still be exchanged for new ones

So if you by any chance have Ringgit notes that are either mutilated, defaced, or are in doubt of even being Ringgit notes or not, you can actually head over to ANY bank and get them exchanged for a proper note because such notes are actually not supposed to be circulated. (In fact, BNM has a whole list of notes which actually shouldn’t be circulated like if your Ringgit note has holes or is partially burnt or even termite infested.)

But just because you have a damaged note doesn’t mean you would simply be able to exchange them for a new one, because there are actually guidelines on how much you can get back depending on how damaged your note is. For mutilated notes here’s what you can in exchange for it:

  • If more than 2/3 of the note intact: Full value
  • If less than 2/3 but more than half: Half value
  • If less than half: No value

So for example, if you have about half of a RM100 note, you can only exchange it for RM50 (kinda makes sense right?).

As for defaced notes, you either exchange it for its full value or nothing at all. For example if a RM100 note only has a little bit of conteng then you can exchange it for another RM100 but if the damage is bad (like conteng on the face of the Agong, or got political messages), then you can’t exchange it at all. And lastly for all those doubtful cases, it goes on a case to case basis because it’s difficult to put a value on those notes.

damaged ringgit notes

Examples of two notes that don’t have value anymore. First one because less than half, 2nd one because badly drawn on. Image from

But isn’t it a bit strange that in the Hong Leong case the mutilated notes went FROM a bank to a person? Well, Hong Leong mentions that the mutilated notes accidentally got mixed up with the proper notes. 


But there have been fake note cases in Malaysia though

Even though this case doesn’t actually involve fake notes, if you Google “fake notes Malaysia” you will find multiple news reports about syndicates making fake notes in Malaysia. Bank Negara Malaysia also has guidelines on how to tell fake notes apart from real ones, but the thing is it the fake notes seem to be getting more and more advanced.

fake rm100

Like initially we couldn’t tell the top one was fake until we used another RM100 note as a reference. (It’s fake because the flower is positioned slightly differently.) Original image from Borneo Post.

But while it may be difficult to tell fake notes apart from real ones, it seems a lot easier to tell when a note is mutilated or defaced. So just keep in mind that the next time you see a note that looks fake, it may actually be mutilated or defaced, because a fake note would probably not look fake. Don’t panic, and just head to your nearest bank to get it exchanged for a new one.

Bank Negara released a study about how Malaysians are paid less for the same work

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