How To Spot A Fake Banknote

How To Spot A Fake Banknote

Do you know how to spot a potential counterfeit banknote? In one year over 719,000 fake notes were discovered in the UK and the total amount of this is calculated to be around £3 billion. This is in spite of the current age of contactless cards, ApplePay, Oyster cards and all kinds of fancy virtual payment systems. If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself with fake money there is no way of replacing it with a legally genuine one. None. Sadly, it gets worse. If you inadvertently try to spend a counterfeit banknote at a retail store you might be shocked to learn that the store has the right to confiscate the money AND call the police as it is a criminal offence. Kirsty McNaught of Morrisons explains that the policy of the supermarket cashier is to hold on to the note, inform the duty manager as well as the police. Even if it turns out that you clearly made an honest mistake you will not be compensated in any way. This means that you will lose out on all fronts.




The law puts the onus on the individual person to make sure their cash is legal and not counterfeit. However, there are lots of free online resources to help make sure you do not fall victim to this problem. For instance, the Bank of England’s (BoE) website includes a “banknotes virtual tour” (currently not working but will hopefully be up again soon) and it shows you how to check security features on real banknotes. On the other hand, you can also call the BoE on 020 7601 4878 for a copy of its self published booklet called “Take a Closer Look”, which helps you understand how to check banknotes.

Here are some quick tips to check if your bank note is real – especially if you don’t have ultra violet lights or a magnifying glass:-

  • Run your finger across the note and you should feel a slightly raised print where it says the words “Bank of England”.
  • Hold the note against the light and check to see if there is a watermark, when you hold it up to the light you should see a clear image of Queen Elizabeth in the oval area located in the centre of the note.
  • Contrary to popular belief, it is in fact the £20 note that is the most counterfeited not £50 as most people assume so make sure to check £20 notes with more care.
  • Another quick trick is to look at the metallic thread that runs through every genuine banknote. This is what appears as a silver dashes on every denomination. However, note that if you hold it against the light, the silver dash will appear as a continuous dark line and will reach both ends of the note.

It is worth checking all of the banknotes that you receive in the form of change even if it takes a lot of time and is slightly awkward. If you find a note that you are not sure about then you should refuse to accept it and demand a replacement.

One thing that might put a smile to your face is that the Bank of England are working hard to make newer notes almost impossible to forge. For instance, there is talk about creating a new plastic banknote with new security features. Also, if you find old genuine notes that have gone out of circulation then you can take it to any high street bank and it will be exchanged for you for free.

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I would love to hear your thoughts…

Have you ever come across a counterfeit banknote? Do you have any tricks and tips that help make sure you always have 100% genuine notes? Are there any steps or resources missing from this article?

Please share your experiences and / or comments below.

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