The counterfeit challenge
Up to 1 per cent of UK banknotes in circulation may be fakes. What should you look out for?
Sunday 29 October 1995
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.
Compare with the Independent: See how much you could save by switching credit cards. Compare now
Simon Read: It's time for a clear line on soaring mobile phone charges
You asked for it - here's your praise of banks!
Simon Read: Here are some Budget changes George Osborne could make, but I don't hold out much hope in times of austerity
How to start your own internet business
Plymouth Energy Community's solar share scheme backed by council
- 1 Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
- 2 Best films on Netflix: 32 movies that will put an end to your scrolling
- 3 Istanbul protesters take 'Ellen selfie' from the back of a police van
- 4 Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Jet ‘hijacking’ began soon after take-off
- 5 Lady Gaga has struggled with eating disorders in the past, so it's indefensible that she's glamourising bulimia in her SXSW set
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
iJobs Money & Business
£35000 - £43000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Harrington Starr: A global lea...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Linux Systems Administrator - UNI...
£32000 - £36000 per annum + generous benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: * TAX * ...
£37000 - £40000 per annum + £20000 benefits package: Pro-Recruitment Group: **...
Day In a Page
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar
A newly refurbished one-bedroom flat in the heart of Mayfair, close to Grosvenor Square
A charming four-bedroom house overlooking Burleigh Square Park, close to Thorpe Bay
A three-bedroom farmhouse with a large inglenook fireplace and exposed beams
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000
A two-bedroom flat with an open plan kitchen and two balconies, close to Arsenal station
A Grade II-listed home with six bedrooms, secluded landscaped gardens and views across Hadley Green
A Grade II-listed mansion with two apartments and a cottage, near Gretna Green
A three-bedroom Grade II-listed mews house with vaulted ceilings and roof garden