In the first half of 2016, around 152,000 counterfeit banknotes were removed from UK streets: if they were real, these notes would have been worth £3.2 million.  Even though genuine banknotes are getting more sophisticated, we are asking for your help to find those making, buying or selling counterfeit notes. 

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Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime: use of counterfeit money in the UK has seen retailers, businesses, schools, charities, the elderly and vulnerable conned out of their hard earned cash. At Christmas time when the costs are mounting up buying counterfeit notes might seem tempting but using them could have a serious impact. 

Learn more about counterfeiting and banknotes

How do I check if a banknote is genuine?

Checks can be made quickly and easily using the security features on the £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes. Signs to look for include:

Paper banknotes

  • The feel of the paper and the raised print
  • The watermark
  • The holograms
  • The metallic thread
  • The motion thread on the £50 note

The polymer £5 note

  • The see-through window and the portrait of the Queen
  • The Elizabeth Tower is gold on the front of the note and silver on the back
  • The foil patches

How are counterfeit banknotes used?

Counterfeiters target vulnerable people, such as the elderly, and businesses, such as charity shops. Scams include: attempting to purchase low value items and pocketing the change; passing a counterfeit within a number of genuine notes; and asking to swap fake notes for a different denomination.

How serious a crime is counterfeiting money?

It is a criminal offence to knowingly use or be in possession of fake notes. The maximum sentence under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 is 10 years’ imprisonment.

What should I do if I suspect a banknote is counterfeit?

If you find yourself in possession of a counterfeit note or suspect it to be so you should give it to the police. If it turns out to be a legitimate note you will be reimbursed.

If you have any information on anyone making, selling or buying counterfeit notes, you can tell Crimestoppers anonymously by filling in our Anonymous Online Form or calling free on 0800 555 111.

Please note: We are unable to take calls from victims, i.e. members of the public who may have been passed counterfeit notes. We take information from people who have knowledge about those involved in making, buying or selling counterfeit notes.

 

Why I should care about counterfeit money

Last year counterfeit notes with a face value of almost £5 million were taken out of circulation. One gang alone was sentenced to over three years’ imprisonment for the manufacture of £320,000 worth of fake £10 and £20 notes. 

Here are some of the cases that show that counterfeiting is not a victimless crime and highlight why you should be careful:

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There are steps everyone can take against receiving counterfeit notes. Manual checks can be made quickly and easily using the security features on banknotes. Don’t rely on checking just one security feature, but check a few before handing over any goods.

What can I do to help? 

Don’t be tempted to get involved with counterfeit banknotes, you could end up with a criminal record.  If you have any information on anyone making, selling or buying counterfeit notes, you can tell Crimestoppers anonymously by filling in our Anonymous Online Form or calling free on 0800 555 111. Telling Crimestoppers about people making, selling or buying counterfeit money gives you peace of mind: we don’t ask for your name or your details, and we can’t find out who you are. 

Play your part in helping us stop this crime and don’t let counterfeit notes spoil your Christmas.

 

Find out more

To find out more about how to check your banknotes visit the bank of England website, download this guide to learn about the security features on genuine banknotes (or get the Banknote App, a free interactive guide to checking your banknotes on mobile) or view our short films.