The counterfeit challenge

Up to 1 per cent of UK banknotes in circulation may be fakes. What should you look out for?

THE GREENE King pub chain is the latest in a growing list of businesses to boycott the pounds 50 note because of an epidemic of forgeries. The company last week instructed hundreds of pubs to refuse the note, especially in problem areas.

The Bank of England and the National Criminal Intelligence Service believe Greene King is over-reacting. They say authentic notes have security features that make them distinguishable from counterfeits - even in a smoky pub environment. These features can be checked properly by sight and touch alone.

In the three years to 1994, counterfeit money mushroomed by more than 200 per cent; by May this year, more funny money had been seized in Britain than in the whole of last year. The South-east Regional Crime Squad recently smashed a counterfeiting ring operating out of east London, and in May the National Criminal Intelligence Service announced a haul of pounds 18m in unused pounds 50 notes.

Bank of England figures show forgeries running at a small fraction of 1 per cent of the total currency in circulation - just over pounds 19bn. The Labour MP Dale Campbell-Savours believes that closer to 1 per cent of all notes are fakes. A worry is the potential effect on the money supply and inflation.

Bill Tupman, former director of the Centre for Police Studies at Exeter University, says counterfeit money is often distributed by criminal networks also involved in drugs - the forged cash can be sold at a discount to stimulate demand for drugs.

Counterfeiting is becoming more and more accurate, employing hi-tech colour photocopying and state-of-the-art scanning techniques.

The Christmas season commands particular vigilance from shops. Although of dubious worth, counterfeit detection machines are now standard, and staff who handle cash are trained to spot the duds. The shopping public might be well advised to check their money before leaving the till. What price a few moments of embarrassment holding up the queue, compared with being stuck with a worthless imitation of a tenner? Especially when the shop, post office or bank is not required by law to reimburse the recipient of the dodgy note they have left. In practice, some do help out in the name of good customer service.

Occasionally bad notes have been issued through cash tills. If this happens to you, go to the offending bank as soon as possible to try to claim a substitute.

It is an offence to pass on a forgery knowingly. You are meant to hand duds over to the police. If the banks intercept a suspected forgery as it is being paid in, they have to forward it to the Bank of England. You will not be compensated. A bank will give you a receipt, but you will only get the note back if it's genuine.

Ultraviolet lamps are used in most banks, chemical pens in some, to detect the fakes, although the devices are not recommended by the Bank of England. Many notes outsmart the machines. Chemicals can be applied to simulate the effect of rag paper - on which sterling is printed. Normal wood-based paper fluoresces under ultraviolet light, while cotton-based rag paper stays dull. Detection machines have also been known to incriminate genuine notes.

Recommended checks are outlined in the Bank of England's Know Your Banknotes leaflet, available at banks and building societies, or direct from the Bank at Threadneedle Street. The paper should be relatively crisp and rough to the touch, and intaglio printing makes lettering stand out. The watermark should be barely apparent until held up to the light. Windowed metallic thread should appear dashed until held up to the light, when the strip looks continuous. Also the printing must be clear, the lines sharp, and the colours distinct. pounds 50 notes have an additional security feature - a silver foil medallion and rose.

Some say the ultimate check, although not endorsed by the Bank of England, is to tear across the metallic thread. The way the strip is woven in has not yet been counterfeited.

The British forgery problem, however, pales into comparison beside that of the US dollar. In Russia alone, where the dollar is in effect the second currency, an estimated $4bn (pounds 2.7bn) of $20bn notes in circulation may be fake.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    BC2

    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    (Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

    Finance Officer

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education are seeking a Fi...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice