As the COVID-19 death toll in Italy surpasses the 12,000 figure, a set of images showing currency notes littered in the streets is going viral on social media with the claim that Italians are throwing away their money in desperation.
The claim is false - these photos were shot in the Venezuelan city of Mérida in March 2019, after some vandals looted a bank and scattered old demonetised currency notes in the streets.
BOOM received the images on its WhatsApp helpline number with the caption: "People in Italy have thrown all of their money on the roads outside saying that this money is useless to save them from death. If you are well off spend this for the service and help of the needy.lesson for humanity."
Relevant keyword searches on Facebook and Twitter revealed that these images are viral with similar narratives on both the platforms as well.
BOOM did a reverse image search of one of the images, which led us to an article by a local Venezuelan news outlet called Maduradas, published on March 12, 2019. The article spoke of hooded vandals ransacking a bank in the Venezuelan town of Merida, and scattering old currency notes which were demonetised in 2018. It also contained a series of images showing streets of Mérida littered with old notes, including the images going viral as Italy.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
TERRIBLE! Hooded vandals ransacked the Bicentennial bank in Mérida and scattered bolivars of the old currency through the streets (+ Photos)
This Monday, March 11, hooded vandals ransacked the Bicentennial bank agency on Avenida 3, Glorias Patrias, in the state of Mérida.
The fact was confirmed by the deputy of the National Assembly Williams Dávila, as well as by the correspondent of El Nacional in the state of Mérida, Leonardo León.
Through the social network Twitter, they reported that citizens scattered piles of old currency bills in the streets, which were later burned down.
Towards the beginning of 2018, the Venezuelan economy faced hyperinflation which greatly devalued the old currency - bolivar fuerte. In August 2018, the Maduro government decided to demonetise the old currency and introduce a new one - the bolivar soberano, as explained by this CNN report.
Out of the 180 countries affected by COVID-19, Italy currently has the highest death toll at 12,428. However, their currency Euro still remains one of the most valuable currencies in the world. Therefore it is unlikely that people will discard huge amounts of it in the streets.
These images had previously gone viral as Venezuelans throwing away their existing currency, which was then debunked by Snopes.
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