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.
Mark Dampier: How to get an income now that savings are past the 'use by' date
Thousands of UK investors could lose out following collapse of Secured Energy Bonds
Bargain Hunter: Fly off for a winter break in France or Portugal for well under £100
Millions in line for compensation after being sold unnecessary credit card cover
Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 19-23 January
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 4 Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...
£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
Day In a Page
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion