Smaller firms bear brunt of booming trade in fake notes

Counterfeiting: businesses, banks and police are hard pressed to cope w ith a flood of forged currency estimated at more than £20m

AS MUCH as £20m of money now in circulation is worthless. That figure is a conservative estimate of the face value of forged notes already produced and passed on by one of Britain's fastest growing businesses - counterfeiting. Full-colour photocopiers, desktop publishing systems and a network of professional counterfeiting printworks are putting retailers, banks and the police under increasing pressure.

The Bank of England says that one in 10,000 notes it pulps is counterfeit, representing "a tiny proportion of 1 per cent" of the money in circulation.

And the British Retail Consortium in last month's report Retail Crime Costs put the losses to retailers at £1.8m, a small figure compared with credit-card fraud, which is 10 times that amount.

But these figures understate the problem. Smaller retailers, a higher proportion of whose takings are in cash, are more likely to be affected than the larger retailers surveyed by the BRC. Some notes, spotted by retailers, may never reach the Bank of England for destruction. And the figures largely ignore another growing problem, that of counterfeit £1 coins, fed into vending machines, which are made to fool the machine not the eye.

Many small retailers, especially in inner-city areas, say the number of forged notes they are given is much greater than 1 per cent. The Bank of England confirms that the problem varies according to area. "Once the public's awareness is raised, the forger will move on," said a spokesman.

Several of the printing presses discovered by the police have been in North London, with just one raid there last month seizing £20 notes with a face value of £5m. Another counterfeit factory was discovered last year in Dublin, and distribution rings were broken in London's East End, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Durham. In 1993, £18m of forged notes were seized, of which £12m never reached the streets.

The Bank of England launched a "Know Your Banknotes" campaign last October, designed to help retailers and the public detect forgeries. Members of the public as well as retailers can pick up booklets in high-street banks, building societies and post office branches, and a video is being made available for staff who handle notes.

Retailers are warned not to rely on the increasingly common testing machines that use ultra violet light, as they are unreliable, and give false readings. Apparent fakes can be genuine notes that have been in contact with washing powder "brighteners" (for example, if notes have been kept in a shirt pocket) and UV lights may fail to spot the better fakes.

Using sight and feel is more reliable. Good notes feel different from fakes: they should be crisp rather than limp, waxy or shiny, and some of the lettering will feel rough to the touch.

The watermark should be barely apparent, unless held to the light, when a portrait of the Queen will become visible.

The thread of metal running down the note should appear like a series of silver dashes until the note is held to the light, when it will look like a continuous line. And the note's lines should be sharp and the colours clear.

It is important for a retailer to spot a forgery before accepting it. It is illegal to knowingly pass on a counterfeit note, but any bank or building society deposit of a forged note will lead to confiscation without compensation. Recipients must call in the police to investigate any note of which they become aware.

Local police forces co-operate over forgeries through the National Crime Intelligence Service, which, since the 1920s, has had a division called the National Office for the Suppression of Counterfeit Currency.

Once the police have completed their investigations, confiscated forged notes are passed on to the Bank of England for destruction.

For a small retailer, a comparatively small number of forged notes could be ruinous. Detective Inspector Bob Stretton, of the Leicestershire Constabulary, said: "The real problem is not the amount of forgeries in circulation, but the individuals who getlumbered with them. It might not sound much to lose £60, but a retailer might have to sell £500 or £600 worth of goods to make it up."

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape